Thanks to social media, my world is brimming with “friends”, yet I’ve never felt more lonely. Instead of beating myself up or complaining about it, this year I’m going to take action.
Most of us have a large circle of people that we stay connected to through social media, though the nature of our friendship with those people is often questionable— have we ever been to these people’s homes, met their cat or kids?When was the last time we saw them— months or years ago? And have we ever been through a moody day or a full-blown crisis together, other than through a stream of posts and photos?
These people are my “friends”, sure. But are all those posts, likes and comments enriching my life (or theirs) in any real way? Not so much. Social networking is a cheap way of starting and keeping friends, because we can broadcast to a bunch of people with a single message. Not exactly intimacy. I follow Miley Cyrus online, but that doesn’t mean we’re besties, or have any special connection. But my shallow relationship with Miley Cyrus isn’t unlike the online relationship I have with hundreds of “friends” online… is this where I want to focus my time, while my few cherished real life friendships dwindle?
Social media is great for keeping updated on the lives of people you care about. But it’s not real life— it’s a life cultivated for public viewing. Mea culpa— the life I post on Facebook or Instagram has very little to do with how I’m thinking or what I’m feeling in any given moment. Not that I’m faking, just that I’m not the type that wants to share with thousands if I’ve just had a fight with my husband or if I’m feeling fat. Not online or offline.
I am a lucky girl with lots of fun stuff to fill my day, and I’m truly grateful for my amazing family. But is my life is far from 24/7 sunshine and unicorns. And the truth is, I’d swap a red carpet event for a long lunch with a friend any day. Less Instagram-friendly, but more meaningful. Lately, with everyone so busy, those lunches are in short supply.
I’ve never found reason to compare myself to a celebrity (don’t worry, I won’t start now) but I would imagine that this phenomenon is similar to what they often talk about— that they have legions of adoring fans (Facebook friends), but no one that they truly feel close to (real ones). Alone in a crowd. And thanks to my smartphone dinging and buzzing any time anyone shows me love online, I feel alone in a crowd too. It can be easy to mistake hundreds of “likes” or “comments” on any given post as touch points of friendship. But build a life with just that kind of friendship and it starts to ring (or ding) hollow.
I’m taking a serious look at my friendships in 2015, and plotting better ways to maintain them when career and family seem to be all-consuming.
I’m starting with a target list of names: Good friends I adore and want to see more of, plus new friendships I want to strengthen and deepen. This might seem a bit robotic— like couples who have to book time to have sex— but hey, if you want something bad enough, it’s worth planning for, right?.
Thoughts on friendships in the digital age? Let’s talk in the comments.