Hundreds Of Friends, No Friendships

It has been over a year since I permanently logged out of a certain social networking site, and I’m delighted to report that there is indeed life outside the bubble!

I wrote the following piece about 6 months ago, and I’ve decided to share it to give an insight into how I was feeling at the time, and to cite some of my reasons for doing so.

I should mention before you read on, that I think there are many benefits to using social media. I believe these websites are very worthwhile when used in the right way and I still use them today albeit to a much lesser extent; you will notice the small, colorful buttons at the end of all my blog entries (don’t be afraid to click those), and I have an Instagram account which I use often.

I will also say that I still have the ability to procrastinate with the best of them, instead now I tend to do so in ways in which bring me enjoyment, such as watching a movie or my favorite TV show, playing FIFA, reading a book, or listening to music.

Contemplation

‘A friend is a single soul dwelling in two bodies’- Aristotle.

I am very fortunate and grateful, to be able to say that I have some incredible family and friends in my life; people I can confide in, and trust with the most intimate details of my life. These are the people I can truly relax and be myself around; they understand me and accept me for who I am. These are the people I turn to during my darkest days, and the first ones I will call on to raise a glass with during my greatest accomplishments. I know they will be there for me whenever I need guidance, encouragement or reassurance. These are the people who inspire me to be the very best I can be each and every day, we laugh together, cry together, live as one; ‘a single soul dwelling in two bodies’.

I wonder if our ability to form meaningful and lasting relationships with people is deteriorating, as a result of living in a world engrossed in social media. Is social media actually healthy for society? Is it beneficial for young people to use social media as much as they do? I’m not so sure.

Some months ago I took the decision to delete my online social media account, and I received some interesting reactions from certain people in my social circle. Some were shocked, others were concerned; worried that maybe there was something wrong with me, perhaps I was depressed or sick, or I was just being weird. Others congratulated me as if it was a great feat of strength, saying how they would never be able to do it.

There are many reasons as to why I decided to break free from the shackles of social media, most of all I found it to be detrimental to my relationships and my general well- being, while bringing on unnecessary anxiety, peer pressure and stress. Not to mention, I found it to be a huge waste of my time.

‘Six degrees of separation’ is the theory that we are six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. In other words, a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in the world, in a maximum of six steps. This theory can be applied to the world of social media also. When you post something on your online profile, be it a picture, a comment, or an opinion, you are sharing an expression of yourself with the whole world of social media, not just your ‘followers’ or ‘friends’. The depth of information that people share nowadays is vast and although a lot of it is innocuous, sometimes you come across posts that can be harmful, disturbing and/or intrusive.

Old classmates, childhood friends, old girlfriends, distant relatives, even strangers make up some of the many hundreds of ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ in your network. Through social media you know almost everything about these people; you’ve been inside their home without ever stepping foot inside the door, you’ve been to their wedding without an invitation, you’ve gone with them on holiday, you’ve watched their children grow, you’ve seen them at concerts that you haven’t been to, you’ve met their new boyfriend or girlfriend, you share in their problems, apprehensions, successes and failures. You’ve shared in these peoples most intimate moments and you’ve seen them at their most vulnerable, yet if you saw them on the street would you even stop to say hello?

Some of the most wonderful moments in life come from meeting new people and forming meaningful and lasting relationships, however social networks are holding us back significantly in this regard. They can create a barrier when we meet new people- instead of talking to the person we would prefer to look for their profile online and message them. How often have you gone to a party, gone out for coffee, or drinks with friends, and you see everyone immersed in their smartphones rather than enjoying each other’s company. They restrict creativity and encourage procrastination, and can even be damaging to one’s confidence and general happiness. These social network sites are, by their very nature, grossly antisocial.

I truly feel we can only stand to benefit by, if not separating ourselves then at least distancing ourselves, from social media, thus improving all aspects of our lives- physical and mental health, happiness, relationships, work, studies and everything else in between.

Say hello to a stranger, ask your crush out for coffee instead of sending a friend or follow request, try something new, go outside your comfort zone, love and cherish your family and friends and let them know daily how much you appreciate them, strengthen and nurture your relationships, and take the first steps towards building some new ones.