Aristotle once said, “the desire for friendship comes quickly; friendship does not”. Within each one is the desire to share life with others. There is a desire for intimacy. There is a desire to have people in our lives with whom we connect on a deeper level. There is a desire to be part of a community that share the same beliefs, values, and interests. Building healthy and meaningful friendships requires work. They do not just “happen”. It is real work. When I speak of work, I am not saying that making friends and building lasting friendships is a job. I am saying that it requires giving up time in our already busy lives to the pursuit of friendship.
I believe we structure ourselves out of the opportunity to build authentic and lasting friendships. We learn to make friends at an early age. Remember as a child the times of simply “hanging out” together. Kids would spend the night at each other’s homes where they would get to know the family and vice versa. Tree houses, sandlot football, bicycle riding, fishing, and camping were not just ways to pass the time, but were avenues to strengthening and deepening friendships. We don’t see too much of this anymore.
Social media has taken the world by storm. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, and other social media sites are growing in popularity among all ages. The very essence of platforms such as these sites is that of friendship and connection. They offer an avenue of keeping up with established friendships and for the establishment of new ones. These sites allow for the constant and immediate answer to the question, “where are you and what are you doing?” Having “friends” on Facebook and “followers” on Twitter assist in connection. The only question that has to be answered is this one: Are these social networking sites capable of reproducing authentic and genuine friendships in the lives of people? I would have to say no.
Aristotle also said, “close friends share salt together”. I believe there is a great deal of truth in his statement. Close friends share meals together. They sit across from each other and share time, struggles, victories, tears, family, hurts, and laughs. I am not saying that social networking sites are bad. I am not saying that they do not have a purpose. I blog, use Facebook and Twitter too. To answer the question asked in my title, “Is social networking eroding the fabric of genuine authentic friendships?” my answer is yes. Social networking sites promote social connectivity. This is not the same as intimate friendships. I see this erosion, or the slow wearing away, of authentic friendships taking place when the preference becomes a computer screen instead of a face-to-face interaction. This erosion can be seen when we would rather engage in online chatting instead of in-person communication. Although we hail the progress of technology today, and there have been some good advancements, I believe that making it possible to communicate and never have to sit down face-to-face separates us as people. Instead of saying, “Let’s get together for lunch and talk”, we say “I’ll email you.” Instead of picking up the phone and phone and talking to someone, we text them. If we are not careful, we will forget how to relate to people all together.
Again, let me say that I am not against social networking, or technology for that matter. I just believe strongly in the value of personal communication and we should make every effort to maintain personal contact with one another.