It’s time to become less dependent on friendships created by social media.
Just this past weekend, after months of following each other on Instagram and being friends on Facebook, my friend met his cyber buddy. They’d liked each others’ photos and would regularly check each others’ profiles on social media. When they’d see each other on the street, they’d look the other way. However, they’d still refer to one another as their friend.
There are millions of friendships just like that of my friend and his cyber friend. People who have only interacted via the internet but still call one another friends. Cyber friendship has greatly increased the number of friends we have. The average adult has 338 friends on Facebook. While these cyber friends are numerous, they’re not satisfying. Ultimately, social media has caused cyber friendship to replace real friendship. This leaves us disconnected and depressed.
The connection that’s being experienced on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram is shallow. It’s based on whether or not someone accepts your friend request, likes your posts, pictures, comments or favorites your tweets. Cyber friendships are completely emotionally detached on social media. These friendships don’t revolve around the actual act of friendship. Rather the mutual boosting of egos, a “you like my photo, I’ll like yours” mentality. Therefore, friendships are no longer about sharing secrets or being there when the other falls. Now, it’s about promoting one another on respective sites. This causes friendship to be less about making each other feel good and more about using another person to make ourselves feel good.
Additionally, social media users can’t experience a real connection when they don’t actually know the person they’re connecting with. Social media is notorious for being a platform on which individuals are free to lie about themselves. Users aren’t sharing their reality, but rather creating a sort of fantasy through pictures and posts. Therefore, the person you’re bonding with over the Internet isn’t actually a friend. He/she is a complete stranger whose profile is a more glamorous and fun representative of what actually exists behind the computer screen. Ultimately, friends who connect on social media know nothing about each other. Except what Instagram filter they are most likely to use.
A University of Michigan study discovered that moments after scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed, participants experienced a decline in their happiness. Cyber friends cause social media to leave us miserable. We automatically assume that everyone we connect with on the site is a friend. Therefore, when we see pictures of them having fun without us, a feeling of intense isolation becomes painfully real. These people may not be someone we actually talk to in reality. In the virtual world, where they’re supporting every status update and profile picture change, they seem like a real friend. Therefore, when we see them living their lives with out us, we feel completely left out.
We’re slowly but surely becoming a generation of depressed and disconnected cyber friends. If we want to change that, we’re going to have to withdraw ourselves from the social media world and re-enter reality. Rather than liking someone’s profile picture or status update, ask them to hang out instead. Montclair is a great town filled with great places to interact with people outside of social media. Go on a lunch date to Dai Kichi, go shopping uptown, go for a walk in the park or get some ice cream at Applegates. Real friendships are built off of real connections. If we want to restore the glory to the word “friendship,” we’re going to have to log off Facebook for a little while and actually hanging out with one another.