It’s about time we took our friendship off facebook
36-year old Sharon Coless whose way of thinking stretches much further than her 6 foot inch frame allows has been my friend for over 15 years. Recently Sharon had a root canal, felt overjoyed that her child’s grueling exam was behind them and hired a personal trainer not to get her already bean pole shape more lean, but because she wanted to be mentally fit to take care of her aging mom who was about move in with her.
Note to our mutual friends.
I know all this about Sharon’s life not because we organised a tête-à-tête over coffee, or met accidentally in the of the supermarket aisle and gossiped as we both reached to thai chili tuna or even for that matter, shared a leisurely Sunday evening telephone call. In fact, I am all caught up with Sharon’s life, well, because of facebook. For the past few months we’ve communicated through status updates, tweeted our frustration and joy—in 140 characters or less—via Twitter.
Here’s what’s wrong with all this though.
Our friendship became less, well, precious. Glimpses of status updates sufficed. Comments on pictures were quick and hurried, not considered. The like button became a false symbol of connection.
Still in the 3 months of following Sharon’s life on facebook, I never picked up the phone to tease her about surviving her son’s SEAs or to offer a shoulder the first night they brought her mother home and I knew she would be as fearful as a bird trapped in a cage. Sure, I tweeted a ‘Thinking of You’ notes but did little else.
Online social networking was supposed to make us closer. But has it really?
My friend Lisa Maria Alexander would argue no. Last week she forwarded an article, ‘The Social Bubble’ via facebook, In it, Umair Haque, Director of the Havas Media Lab, suggested that facebook, twitter, foursquare etc creates thin relationships that are mostly weak, artificial and are the antithesis of real relationships. According to Haque: “Real relationships are patterns of mutual investment. I invest in you, you invest in me. Parents, kids, spouses — all are multiple digit investments, of time, money, knowledge, and attention. The "relationships" at the heart of the social bubble aren’t real because they’re not marked by mutual investment . At most, they’re marked by a tiny chunk of information or attention here or there.”
Lisa and I talked about this at length over the phone. And I, of course, quickly defended the technology. “Thanks to social networking,” I championed, “ many have gotten back in touch with friends from high school and university, shared old and new photos, and became better acquainted with some people we might never have grown close to offline and ..”
Then I caught myself. Sharon flashed across my mind and I thought about my soon to be 1,000 friends of facebook and how if I needed a help or was in trouble that I would only call a handful of them. And so at the end of our conversation I kind of agreed with Lisa-Maria If we’re not careful, our online interactions can hurt our real-life relationships.
Like many people, I’m experiencing social media fatigue. The exchange of action for stimulus, action for stimulus can be tiring. I have grown weary of friends know who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, becoming farmers and taking pesky quizzes.
Time for change.
Recently a group of my friends decided that to improve our interactions, we needed to change our conduct, not just pretend that they existed. And so led by the adventurous Simone Brown we started meeting at 6:30 am every Saturday morning to hike in the most amazing of locations throughout the country. Our meets serve a several purposes; it connects us to nature and the great outdoors something which I’ve figured we were all longing for, it gets us moving, more importantly we spend the hours of the hike talking about life, work, love.
Fianlly we’ve decided to stop macoing and start connecting. This week I am calling Sharon with an invitation to join us, it’s about time we took our friendship off facebook.