What constitutes a real friendship? In this day and age many people have lots of “friends” with social media especially Facebook users. Can a friendship through social media replace a friend that you can touch and feel? People use social media websites to keep in touch or reconnect to past acquaintances and follow each other’s lives.
People use social media sites such as facebook, myspace or instgram to keep in touch and follow each other’s lives. Before these sites or the internet people kept in touch with friends by visiting, calling and writing letters all of which require a real effort to nurture a friendship. During those times if you weren’t close friends with someone they would eventually not be part of you’re so called friends after sometime. Now you can keep in up with people who would have fallen out of your life before. Now with the click of a button or two you will be ”friends” with anyone anywhere in the world. These friends can offer support in hard times and celebrate with someone when times are good.
In “Friends with Benefits” by Kate Dailey she speaks of friends and how they can support you through social media. One thing that is addressed is “Researchers have yet to significantly study the social implications of Facebook” (Dailey 219). The information provided goes over friends on Facebook and how they be of some support when someone suffers a loss or has something good happen. They might offer support or words of encouragement with a loss which can be helpful. If someone was to lose a job, spouse, child or some other tragic incident then a person could offer words of encouragement or support. The question is can these online friends help and offer the same support as a friend there in person.
Having someone who can offer sincere condolences versus someone who sends a frowning face on a social media website. People usually like to interact with real people during hard times and those friends are people involved in each other’s lives. Friends that are wanted in our lives will be connected by more than a screen name. During a bad time of someone’s life they can be helped by many things such as words of encouragement, a shoulder to cry on or a good deed. Online friends can offer typed words of help or encouragement but nothing more really but flesh and blood friends can offer all of that plus the real human interaction.
On the opposite side is support when there’s good things happening in one’s life like kids, job and other accomplishments. When a goal is met or some other great event occurs in someone’s life online friends can be supportive with words or smiley faces. “Before the internet we wouldn’t see our acquaintances very often: every once in a while, we might show up at a wedding and suddenly have 100 of our closest friends around” (Daly 219). There’s an endorphin release when people receive good news or words of encouragement but nothing can compare to the feeling for actual human to human contact. Flesh a blood friends can do more than send each other a message or post a comment on a page or picture. Many people gather with their friends and do things such as BBQ’s, dinners, birthday parties and even go on vacations together. Many friendships are built over time and through ups and downs they share together some over many years. Having online friends express well wishes is great but nothing beats a real friend walking up with a smile congratulating you for some success.
Looking at online friends one may amass hundreds of these friends but in reality “people only have a few good friends according to Shelley E. Taylor, professor of psychology at the University of California, Los Angles” (Dailey 219). By having so many so called friends some fell more important but most only keep in contact with a small number of their friends. It’s impossible to have more than a few friends in anyone’s life as there isn’t enough time to grow that many relationships. Many people seem to confuse friends and acquaintances in the realm of social media leading them to think they can count on everyone they correspond with on these sites. When you need help can you post on a something like Facebook and count on people outside of your core group of friend showing up to help? It’s interesting at how many people use social media “Facebook attracted 67.5 million visitors in the U.S. in April (according to ComScore Inc.), and the fastest-growing demographic is people over 35” (Dailey 219). This in itself is interesting but the reason for the old age of the growing population is the connecting with past acquaintances from our past.
I did a survey of my friends list and asked why everyone was friends with the people they had chosen to be friends with on Facebook. Many answers were to reconnect with people they had lost contact with while others wanted to see if past relationships had moved up or gone down in their opinion. This part was shocking and funny that some would admit this and it seems many would use “friends” to check on ex-spouses or ex-lovers. The people with children use Facebook to keep track of their kid’s friends and families. Another interesting fact was the way military or veterans use Facebook to stay in contact with friends all around the world. One big positive benefit was how many grandparents use Facebook to keep up to date on what their grandchildren are doing which before the internet they waited for a phone call or a letter. Now they can see pictures the day the picture is taken and can message them with no mail or long distance calls.
Can Facebook friends provide the same as a flesh and blood friend? The simple answer is no but there are many variables that must be considered. During a hard time “Posting personal experiences, no matter how painful, also allows acquaintances who have lived through similar experiences to reach out, either with information about support groups or just an empathetic ear. “The idea of sharing a commonality helps make it a little more bearable. You’re not alone, and there are others going through what you went through” (Dailey 220). This shows that if you allow people to know things are going rough you well have people who’ve gone through similar situations support you and point you in the right direction. Another aspect is you can freely vent frustrations without someone feeling attacked. On the positive side you receive support whether you’re dealing with a hard time or a great experience you’ve had recently. People can express support or reassurance online but nothing replaces the “warm feeling-or brain-boosting endorphins-that come from human-on-human contact, and you can’t send someone a casserole through Facebook” (Dailey 220).
Nothing will ever replace a real friend that you can see and touch no matter what applications or emotions are added. People by nature need to be around others and spend time with people who know us down to the core. Some may have hundreds of online friends but most only have a very small core group of friends. As a real friend you are more involved than an online friend that may just be there to wish you well, say happy birthday because Facebook told them it was your birthday and to give some condolences. A real friend will come sit and listen during a tough phase, bring you food to eat when you’re sick or come to see the new baby you just had at the hospital. Real friends you can call in the middle of the night for anything and they’ll be there to help you were a “online” friend might send you a message or comment in a few days or weeks. Humans speak more in actions than they do with words and the majority of our communication is nonverbal than it is actual verbal communication.