I’ve been doing a bit of spring-cleaning on my blog, and found this early post. It reflects a conversation I’ve had with many friends, both online and off, about how the word “friend” has been changed by the introduction of social media. No one explains it better, in my opinion, than Shimi Cohen though. Here it is, from the archives.
We’re collecting friends like stamps . . . and converting the deep meaning and intimacy of friendship with exchanging photos and chat conversations. By doing so . . . we claim to have many friends, while actually being lonely.
I’ve had a few discussions with my closest friends regarding how social media is very anti-social. The irony of raising it here is not lost on me, I assure you.
I’ve realized that while many people show an on-line status, for example, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are available to me. This has been a challenging lesson for me. I was one of the people who was connected and yet most definitely lonely. My loneliness was perhaps amplified in that I was sometimes a shut-in for weeks at a time and depended on social media for my companionship. People were always afraid to call me, they said, because they didn’t want to wake me up. So I chose to only be “available” when I truly was. I wasn’t the popular girl at the online party. Frankly, that wasn’t so different from my in-person life sometimes.
Does that sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself? Okay, sometimes. But mostly, I’ve accepted an opportunity to reclaim the original meaning of friend. It’s not a numbers game. It’s about mutual affection, caring and support. The reason I raise this though, is because of Shimi Cohen’s next thought.
More and more people define themselves as lonely . . . thus, loneliness has become the most common ailment in the modern world.
Loneliness promotes depression. Depression and other mental health problems are significant and for many people can lead to self-injury or death. In my case, it fostered a victim mentality in me and when I couldn’t get others to see where I was coming from, I realized I needed to make a change in my expectations of other people. So I declared a social media moratorium for several weeks–and a permanent moratorium on certain platforms.
I want more in my life. Friendship–solid, joy-filled, blessed friendship–takes time. It requires effort but I believe it will be worth it. Sure, I have people who can see my pictures and my stories and what things I like or don’t. As a writer, I know I have to be okay with that.
But that, is mostly a numbers game. It’s not friendship. I choose quality over quantity. Do you?