Ah, friendships. When I hear someone refer to hundreds (or even thousands) of people on social media as “friends,” I kind of shiver. Can you learn how to be a good friend when the method of determining what that is seems to have gotten ridiculously ambiguous over the last ten years?
No matter how social we are, we’re losing vital social skills I’m beginning to worry will never return. Friendships have now become disposable for little or no reason. Hyper-sensitivity to every true or perceived offense is making it far too easy to walk away from histories (sometimes spanning years) built in the real or (increasingly more common) virtual world.
“I don’t need you…I have lots of other friends.”
“You made me mad, we’re no longer friends.”
“I’m going to cut you out of my life as if you never existed.”
It both fascinates and saddens me at the same time. When did a friend become nothing more than a way to pass the time until you no longer needed the person? How are we able to quickly and almost violently abolish people for slights that wouldn’t have caused much of a ripple even ten years ago?Friendships have now become disposable for little or no reason.Click To Tweet
Everything is Replaceable…?
It turns out, we’re part of what’s being referred to as a “throwaway” culture.
New research from the University of Kansas shows we’re ready and willing to “wipe the slate clean” in regards to people just as we are to places we live, items we own, or jobs we once held.
The study (part of four individual studies in conjunction with the University of Dayton), published in Personal Relationships, points out that how you look at objects is a strong indication to how you view the people in your life.
Associate professor of psychology at UK, Omri Gillath, explained, “If you move around a lot, you develop attitudes of disposability toward objects, furniture, books, devices – basically whatever merchandise you have at home, your car even.”
Our mobile lifestyle, a sense that everything can be replaced, extends beyond possessions and friendships to even romantic involvements. Is it possible to learn how to be a good friend, partner, or co-worker if you aren’t invested?
“For many…moving up means moving around. If you’re willing to move for school or a job, you have a higher chance of being successful. But we’re saying it also makes things superficial and disposable,” said Gillath. “If you develop the idea that everything can be replaced, you won’t develop strong and deep ties.”
History Repeats Itself
Basically, if you cast off past relationships easily, you’re less likely to develop strong (and lasting) relationships in the future. The researchers stressed that this type of attitude could have a strong ripple effect on quality of life and society at large.
“Research suggests only deeper high-quality ties provide us with the kind of support we need like love, understanding and respect. If social ties are seen as disposable, you’re less likely to get what you need from your network, which can negatively affect your mental and physical health as well as your longevity.”If you cast off past relationships easily, you’re less likely to develop strong relationships.Click To Tweet
Virtual vs Real World Friends
I’m a strong believer in being the same person in every area of my life.
Having been part of the social media explosion over the last ten years, I’ve seen glaring examples of people who portray themselves as a completely different person depending on who they’re interacting with at the time.
If we’re going to beat this “throwaway” culture label and learn how to be a good friend to those friends we claim (and who claim us), then perhaps it starts with an overhaul of the “multiple personality” fashion. The pretense of who people are, what they look like, what they enjoy, or what they’re looking for is a core issue no one is addressing.
How can you be a good friend if you don’t even really know (or accept) who you are? How can others truly be your friend if the person you portray isn’t the same one your family, co-workers, or real world friends have met?
They say you can be anyone you want to be online and I believe that. I also believe that if you go through life reinventing yourself virtually (often over and over again), the deep and lasting friendships are going to be a struggle for you. Because those virtual incarnations do not exist. The relationships formed are based on imagination, not reality.
Like all fairy tales, they eventually fade away.
We Need Friends
Personally, I prefer a “quality” over “quantity” scenario. I value strong friendships and can feel their positive influence in my own mental and emotional state in almost every interaction.
That’s nothing compared to how strong friendships affect your physical health.
“Not having a social support network can be a higher death risk than obesity or leading a sedentary life without exercise,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad. She’s a psychology professor at Brigham Young University. “The studies have shown a 50% increased odds of survival if you have a solid social network.”
In fact, in one study from the University of California, researchers found that women who were socially isolated prior to breast cancer diagnosis had a 66% higher risk of mortality than women who had strong social networks.
Learning how to form strong friendships or how to be a good friend is more about (super cheesy comment coming…wait for it) being the kind of friend you’d like to have.
Yeah, it might be cheesy but it’s still true.
Shayne McClendon is an author and positivity practitioner. Shayne believes love crosses all boundaries, social castes, races, genders, and belief systems. If you are lucky enough to find soul-deep love, you should fight for it. Life-certified, reader approved.