How many times have you checked Facebook today? How many Facebook friends do you have? I have 1,636 friends: but before you think I’m some sort of legendary socialiser, I actually only know under half of them in real life! This is a problem, as social media encourages a transitory style of friendship, not something with the authenticity our souls crave.
What is friendship? Here’s my go at a simple definition: a friend is someone you know, like, trusts and have a relationship with. It’s a two-way thing.
I’ve noticed this is really hard to achieve on social media for two reasons:
- We control how we portray ourselves when using social media, meaning people only see the refined versions of ourselves (not reality!)
- Social media lets us to feel close to people as we ‘see’ their lives, but it is not a reciprocal closeness. We are conditioned to select and see what we want, and ignore the rest. Authentic friendships don’t pick and choose only the good bits, but are a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Dr. Reader, a psychiatrist says: “What social network sites do is decrease the cost of maintaining and forming social networks because we can post information to multiple people… But to develop a real friendship we need to see that the other person is trustworthy.. What we need is to be absolutely sure that a person is really going to invest in us, is really going to be there for us when we need them.. It’s very easy to be deceptive on the internet.”
Deception is at the heart of social media. We think we’re in control and we think we know people, but the biggest deception is that we’ve been tricked into thinking this is enough for friendship. We need real friendships.
For most of my life I longed to belong, to be popular, to be known, to be heard. Social media was the platform where I was able to manipulate the image of myself to achieve some of these things. However, when I became a Christian I realised that this was not enough.
With God there is no “showing-off” my good side – He knows my best and my worst! This understanding set me free! I realised that I don’t have to fake it anymore and that I will never be perfect. Knowing this helps me to love my friends more authentically.
- Ask a friend about their values – it is hard not to experience authenticity when you really understand what makes a person tick. What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning and shapes the way you go about your day?
- Listen to a person dream – in a perfect world where would you like to be in ten years? What things would you like to have accomplished? What difference would you like to make in the world? Often we don’t always know the answer to these questions, but authentic friendships are the ones that bat them about and try and figure out the answers together.
- Thirdly, and most importantly, be brave and vulnerable – share the things that make you tick, share the things that get you up in the morning and motivated for the day, share the contributions that you would like to make to your corner of the world.
Having authentic friendships is good for us (and also helps our attempts at sharing the gospel come across as more real). So who will you invest your time into? Take some time to think of one or two people that you would truly like to know, and then get in touch. Facebook them perhaps… #jk
First published Sep 5, 2016 at studentlife.org.nz by AJ