Sunday, May 1, 2011

Social Networking or Real Friendships - You Decide!

Originally Posted December 9, 2009

Maybe I should be thankful for fat fingers - or, for not being overly popular.

I get it, really. Social networking and media is the wave of the future. It builds communities through technology unlike anytime in our history. It also breaks down barricades between us and expands the possibilities of human connectivity.

However, can social networking sites replace real honest-to-God friendship? How much of it can imitate life?

The fast answer to these questions is simple: It depends on how that person uses it.

Sure, it’s a simple answer, but let’s be honest about ourselves here. Deep down inside, we want to feel connected – even more so than in years past. Remember getting that letter from a friend from far away and that feeling you get when the letter contains good news and tidings? No one writes letters anymore – let alone e-mails.

How about that phone call from a long distance friend that racked up a huge bill?  Boy, were they worth it! You heard their voice - you felt their emotions. Then, you gave out your mobile phone number. Soon, those phone calls were replaced by text messages. Most likely, your current mobile phone is now an overgrown communication device gathering tweets from Twitter and status updates from Facebook.

Have we lost our ability to communicate and connect with our friends? Or, have we brought into the concept what some people consider “friendship” as a casual way to connect with others within a reasonable area of common ground?

Now in my mid-forties, I find myself questioning the concept of friendship in terms of today's technology. I often wondered if a guy caught between the Baby Boomers and Generation X has any business tweeting and/or Facebooking only to, on occasion, feeling lonely.

To somehow answer this question, five years ago I explored one of those Employee Assistance sites that delivers emotional health programs to find out more about the topic of friendship. The webpage on this topic said that after turning 40 years old, the realm of friendship changes. It no longer holds the fervor of earlier years where it was cool to be a friend and hang out drinking until the cows come home. By 40, there is an expectation of solidity and a life centered on family and the mid-portion of a professional life. The webpage continued to state that friendships one had in their 20’s and 30’s no longer hold the same glamour, as one gets older.

This explains everything!

I often fall back on something that was said where you would always know who are your friends when they attend your funeral. I would like to not wait until that happens to find out. I am blessed to have some good friends that I can talk to, send e-mails and holiday cards to - but, should it really matter if there are swaths of people that would rather call a friendship one where you're simply connected to LiveJournal, Facebook or Twitter?

Maybe this is a foolish question to ask. We all need to continue to know, grow and love our friends as usual and not worry about technology's consequences on those relationships. Isn't that what the Holiday Spirit is all about? Let alone, life?

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