Friendships 2.0

This was written by a student (and friend) involved with Challenge Success. We appreciate his willingness to share his personal story with us.I don’t have a Facebook account. Anymore.

About two years ago, I deleted it in a move which has since brought me a lot of weird looks and comments about how “out of the loop” I have become. People complain that I am now “hard to reach” and wonder how I manage to stay “in touch.” Which I all find very interesting. Because I have a phone. And an email address. And even a P.O. Box. And I also live on the same campus as them.
It is almost as if the rules of social interaction have been rewritten. Apparently, it is no longer socially acceptable to get by with seeing people face to face. So what is it about these new platforms that makes them such a crucial part of day to day life? Why do I really need one? And how did it get to the point where I found that they were actually hurting and not helping personal interactions?
Social media platforms have a variety of features which make them highly attractive. Yes, they make it easier to bridge distances, and they offer the gift of time in that you can be social at your convenience (if you can’t offer a response immediately, you can delay it without dropping the conversation). They also make it incredibly easy to share content with large groups of people, and keep tabs on people you might not see frequently. But more importantly, they promise something which you can never fully attain in reality: the chance to portray yourself in your own light. And this is what makes them so alluring.
When creating an online profile, everyone ends up re-inventing themselves without even realizing it. They don’t tell the whole story. Online social media platforms are strangely superficial worlds where everyone is flawless, and they have fun all the time. Because content is user-inputted, everyone always seems overwhelmingly happy, and always looks great in every picture. (After all, why would you want to put your flaws out in the open for all to see?) You rarely see people posting unflattering photos of themselves or talking about their insecurities. After all, why would they want to create that image for themselves? But as a result, interactions can never be genuine, and people become unhealthily concerned with their online appearance. Some might argue that “pictures never lie,” but in all actuality, are they really telling the truth if they don’t tell the whole story?
Online profiles allow users to interact from a distanced perspective, which can be comforting, but is ultimately destructive. Sometimes, individuals become so used to interacting from behind their internet-fabricated façade that face-to-face interaction can be awkward. Text inevitably muffles emotional complexity, and provides unnaturally lengthy pauses in between responses. It also makes privacy impossible (just think back to the last time you turned to a friend next to you and asked “how should I respond to this?”) This in itself has radically changed how people communicate. And to think that all of this has transpired in the past decade is quite alarming.
Online social media platforms may be fun and ubiquitous, but it’s important to consider the threats they pose. Sure they make it easy to talk to your friends, but what does a “friend” even mean anymore, and just how genuine are these interactions?

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