Is the Way We Navigate Friendships Changing?

A strange thing happened to me the other day.  I lost a follower on a social media site and
it actually made me feel sad. 

As followers come and go I don’t usually mind.  I understand that is the nature of social
media – it is fast-paced, often impersonal and one has to grow a thick skin to
survive it.  But this loss hurt me.  Because it was a friend I had known for many
years and though we are not close any more, and indeed have not seen each other
for some time, we still connected through social media and I felt that he was
still in my life a little bit in that way.
So I was sad when I saw he had decided to un-follow me.   And I found myself going through reasons in
my head as to why I had upset him, if indeed I had upset him.   Then, I found myself looking at my posts to
find clues as to why he decided to pick that moment to leave me. Then, the
third stage, I began to convince myself he must have hit the wrong key and made
a mistake.  

Ultimately, I gave myself a good shake and thought about how
silly it was to analyse in such great detail that one little thing that
happened on that one social media site. 

Thinking about it more widely though, I have seen a real
shift over the past decade in how I make friends and how my friendships
happen.  I imagine I’m not alone in
that.   Where once I would speak to my
friends often on the telephone, we now carry out most of our contact without
speaking at all – we text, email, and other messaging methods, to arrange our
plans.    And  it isn’t uncommon to spend an evening
exchanging messages about a TV programme, which we are watching in separate
houses.

How strange to have become so remote when the technology and
world around us has become so advanced.  
And how strange that the very things that were designed to bring us
closer together may actually be facilitating our separation.   

I see the way we communicate with friends and make friends
changing all the time.   Where once one
might make friends through fairly traditional means – at school, college, in
the pub, at social gatherings – now, it is commonplace to make friends in the
virtual world who you become very close to but in some instances never meet. 

I’ve had this myself.  
I am part of an online blogging community of wonderful and inspiring
women and I feel I could call some of them actual friends now, albeit in a
different way to my real world friends. 

It’s all well and good reflecting on how things have changed
but what about for the future generation? 

I look at my children and whilst they are still only small I
anticipate that their experiences of friendship will be very different to that
which I and my friends grew up with.   Do
technology and social media do that?  Or
is it just that we carry on evolving the way we approach our friendships
anyway?     

I see my children in their nursery settings making friends
just as I did as a small child, but I know this may change as they grow up and
become more aware of influences around them.    
I wish I had a glimpse into the future so I could warn them if things
get tough.   As they navigate
friendships, are they going to be faced with more challenges than I did or just
different ones?   For example, bullying
has become something that has left the classroom and entered children’s homes
online.    That’s a frightening thought.   

Will my children be able to hold on to the social skills
they develop as small children once the pressures of technology enter their
worlds?   

Will my children experience the pressures of wanting to be
accepted and liked online?  Will that be
their validation of themselves or will they brush it off and see what’s around
them in the real world? 

Will they even know this is an issue for their parents,
because it is all they have ever known? 

I don’t have the answers to these questions but I think it
is important to think about them.   And
important to be able to adapt the way I think so I can help my children to
embrace a future of adulthood that may be very different to my own.

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