Social Media and the Nature of Friendship (or Stop Poking Me, I Hardly Know You)

The big problem with living in an age where everyone is plugged into everyone else’s business is that everyone is plugged into everyone else’s business.

So far there seem to be two competing models for the online experience. On the one hand, there are the mega-entities like Facebook that are content to give to give you a platform to do anything you like (as long as it conforms to Disney standards and practices). All they ask in return is to siphon off a little bit of your life force in the form of selling all your personal information to the highest bidder. All in the name of trying to sell you more useless crap you probably don’t need. (Why Google ads thinks I would want to buy My Little Pony merch is beyond me.)

Alternatively, we can jump into the communal wells, like 4chan and reddit, where everyone throws in their two cents but wishes rarely come true. While these loosely knit communities can sometimes come to a consensus, it is usually of the pitchfork and torches variety. That is not to say that there are not amazingly talented people everywhere you look on the internet, but finding them in all the noise is like finding one particular fish in the Pacific. And speaking of marine life in bodies of water, I don’t even know where to begin when it comes to online dating sites. (In all fairness, I am clueless when it comes to dating in any form.)

So, as we plunge ever deeper into this digital quagmire, are the only choices Matrix or Unimatrix?

We mistake our online interactions as intimacy, when they are, in fact, much closer to the fancrush you feel for your favourite celebrity. True networking is a two-way street. What is important is connecting with other people. You have to listen as well as broadcast. Ultimately, which platform you use doesn’t matter. It is a personal choice, like wearing a hat. You have to find the one that fits best — tuque, beret, stetson or bowler. (Mine is a propeller beanie.)

We, for the first time in history, have a truly global reach and access to unlimited intellectual resources. But we are still failing when it comes to building communities. Friendship is a continuum, not a light switch. Relationships take time and effort to develop; ultimately, you get out of them what you put in. (Unlike slot machines.)

Also, Jeri Ryan is one of the coolest people on Twitter. You should send her pictures of your cat.

Screen captures from The Matrix (Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures) and Star Trek: Voyager (Paramount Television, CBS Television Distribution)

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Crazed recluse and sociophobe who has taken up writing after failing at everything else. Send pizza.

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2 comments on “Social Media and the Nature of Friendship (or Stop Poking Me, I Hardly Know You)
  1. EricIndiana says:

    I think that the so-called friendships we develop online are fun diversions from reality, but not true friendships. It’s friendship light. But I don’t blame social media or the internet. For me, it just seems like the human condition – I will never have a truly deep friendship as an adult. Here’s what I’m trying to say: http://daisybrain.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/musings-on-friendship/

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    • I think everyone is different; there is a continuum from hermit to attention whore. Some choose to turn their energies inward to more solitary pursuits, while others crave the support or validation of a peer group. Often one side cannot understand the other as we always believe that everyone must be like us or there is something wrong with them. If that choice is made out of anxiety or depression , one should seek help. But if it is just your nature to be solitary, who are we to say you’re wrong. If people are satisfied with the current state of their relationships, that’s great. If not, it’s their job to make the effort to develop new or better friendships. As for the internet, think of it like trading in a hammer for a nail gun: it makes the job easier, but you still have to build your own house. True friendships are only forged when both parties are invested in some common goal (work, hobby, sport, etc.) and there is time to build on shared experiences. That almost always means face time and lots of it. Sorry, internet. You lose this round.

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