Tag Archives: Twittersocial media

The Power of Friendship & Has Social Media Changed The Face of Friendship?

22 Aug

I have always been somebody who has ardently valued friendships.  Growing up with a sister who was fifteen years older than me I experienced the childhood of an ‘only child.’  Also moving home often as a youngster meant that friendships were forged and then suddenly gone forever.   So as I reached my teens and then beyond, the bonds of friendship became massively significant to me.

My friendships thankfully have always been very eclectic.  Men, women, gay, straight, old young my mix of friends has always been a very heady brew.  If I had to define a common trait it would perhaps be a well honed sense of humour.

When working at Guildford University at the tender age of nineteen, I experienced something that both troubled and puzzled me for years afterwards.  I got on very well with both students (who were of course my age) and staff.  I formed a good friendship with one of the other conference organisers a woman who was in her mid-forties.   We would often meet up and for lunch or coffee.  Julie (for that is the name I shall use) was great fun.  We had the same sense of the ridiculous and she was an extremely interesting person.  Married with two children I enjoyed listening about her life and her sharing her wit and wisdom on the day’s events.  Then one day, at a prearranged lunch.  Julie nervously told me that she “didn’t think we should be friends any more as there was too big an age difference between us and that people would talk.”  I was mortified I had absolutely no idea what she meant.  Why would people care if two adults were friends but were in a different age group?  I remember the tears coming too quickly to my eyes and feeling extremely confused and actually acutely embarrassed.

I never arranged another lunch date or coffee break with Julie again.  Whenever I saw her at work after that awkward conversation, she would avoid eye contact with me and look rather uncomfortable.

Well has true friendship changed in our social media age?  I think the face of friendship has changed forever!  I know many people debate how genuine friendships founded on social media sites actually are.

If I look at my rather large list of friends, I see school friends that had been lost forever now back on that list.  I adore the fact that some of the folks that as a younger me I didn’t really connect that much with, are now some of the wittiest and cleverest people I know.  How wonderful social media gave me that chance to connect with them again.

I have friends on my list that I have met from all around the world, Facebook gives me the chance to keep in touch with these people I shared wonderful times with.  I also have new friends, some that I have actually met on social media, it has afforded me the opportunity to become firm friends with people I never would have been granted the grace of meeting.  I have also become close to people I have actually admired from afar for years.

On the flipside social media has on the odd one or two unfortunate occasions shown me a darker side of somebody who I have been personally close to.  You can only hide your real self for so long online before your true face surfaces.  Amazing that you can be in somebody’s company but it takes long-term online exposure sometimes for a darker side to that person to reveal itself.

Social media has changed the way we manage our friendships.  No avoiding phone calls or forgetting birthdays.  We diligently wish our friends Happy Birthday.  We message them if they are having a bad day. We actually partake in their lives a lot more now than we used to.

We can argue and debate at length the merits of social media friendship.  What I really want to know is, would in this enlightened day and age Julie still consider our friendship potentially ‘controversial?’  Has our accessibility to make friends from such a diverse spectrum stopped the old-fashioned constraints of friendship?  I sincerely hope it has.

So, I raise a glass to all my friends; young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight, famous, infamous and damn right outrageous.  Long may our differences continue to unite us!

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