What does it mean to be friends in the 21st century?
A Facebook like? An instagram regram? A returned skype call? An emoticonned-out whatsapp? I’m beginning to wonder if somehow we’ve lost touch with what it is.
I adore social media and the way it has the ability to nurture international relationships and cultivate friendships that might never exist in the physical paradigm alone. It links us to people and places transnationally. And it can be a visual diary, recorded for eternity with quick reminders of a time and place otherwise lost in a fuzzy memory.
In this way, I owe social media tremendously. But in a world where sugar is often replaced by something artificial, it’s wise to remember that there’s nothing quite so delicious as the real thing—friendships included.
Whilst friendship is supposed to be an innate transcendental human quality of rich regard, has it become somewhat trifling?
Sadly, our society is a bit lacking in community these days. There’s no point moaning and groaning about it. It is what it is—just one of the draw-backs to living in such an ironically ‘connected’ world. I mean, we truly can sit on our couch and have a full-blown relationship with someone living in Timbuktu.
I’ve always seen internet-based relationships as a wonderful way to stay in touch, but recently I’ve noticed an illness plaguing my friends and acquaintances that makes amity seem a rather quaint notion indeed. I’m talking about flakiness and interaction.
There’s a growing, bizarre trend in people that can’t seem to commit to a coffee date at a set time and place, but will ‘like’ every photo you post online. We seem to find it acceptable to cancel plans on the day, heck within the hour at times, but late night text each other until we fall asleep. We’re barely ever on time as we can shoot a quick i-message through explaining why we’re late.
Agreeably, technology can make friendships easier to maintain. But I feel some friendships are a tad too easy and we’re in danger of becoming complacent.
I see girls go through best friends within months and boyfriends within days. It feels as if we’re all a touch too expendable to one another. Sometimes it truly feels that people are painting a huge collage of what they want their life to appear like (online) and they grab people and places that help build and maintain this image.
This obsession with online personas needlessly amplifies the incapability for most people to be present. Rarely do I have dinner, lunch, coffee—even a run once—with a friend who doesn’t have their phone sitting on the table or within inches of reach. It’s as if we’re just waiting for our real lives to go off and the present moment is a distraction until something happens online.
This horrible concoction of flakiness and disengagement with the present moment is rife at the moment. Are they merely symptoms of ‘instant gratification syndrome’ that most of our generation has caught? I’m starting to think we have forgotten how to do it—be friends that is.
Humans need connection for survival. Indeed it’s one of the reasons we have succeeded on this planet—by working and growing together. The growing insurgence of depression and anxiety amongst some of my peers is, in my opinion, a result of the lack of these meaningful connections that we crave.
So here’s a tool kit for friends:
Let’s answer each other’s messages and return missed phone calls. Let’s make plans to meet in person and stick to them. Let’s have philosophical conversations under the stars instead of tagging each other in quotes.
Let us not place Facebook ‘likes’ and photos as the crux of our relationship, but use it as a tool. Let us not use meaningless words like love and sisterhood and fail to follow through with what it means to truly be there for someone. Let us not be afraid of conflict and intimacy.
Let us open up our hearts to each other. Be authentic and present, embracing each other as equals, supporting each other’s strengths and struggles. Let us establish deep connections through friendship and build back the bonds that have plummeted in our generation.
Let us be true friends.
Author: Henrietta Moore
Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Courtesy of Author