A question I pondered last week was this: “Is it easier or harder to maintain friendships in the social media age?” The reason I was pondering this was I was “unfriended” on Facebook. I didn’t know at first that this person unfriended me until I went to look at the person’s page and it said “add friend”.
It made me think about friendships and how maintaining friendships have changed in the last decade or so. it wasn’t too long ago that if you wanted to keep up with friends (besides face to face interaction) you had phone calls, letters or e-mail. Each of those weren’t immediate and constant but they were still avenues to connect with friends. Now with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media outlets, people can keep up with one another almost instantly.
However, there is a flip side to this. When someone unfollows you on Twitter or unfriends you on Facebook, you do not receive a notice. You get plenty of notices of people when they connect with you but none if they don’t. When you do find out, it can hurt, especially if you weren’t just “Facebook friends” but friends in real life as well. This is something that before the social media age wasn’t really made known. Unless someone told you that they weren’t your friend anymore, you wouldn’t know any different. Now that has changed.
When I posted that I was pondering this question on Facebook and Twitter, some friends posted their thoughts. Most of them said that it was harder. One person wrote “I think that people get lazier with maintaining friendships due to social media & that immediate gratification. It’s like literally out of sight of mind, except your friends are in sight because you are “talking to (at)” them on social media sites.” Another person wrote “While it’s nice to see the life of someone through social media, it isn’t the same as walking side by side. That being said Twitter and Facebook mean you don’t have to wait for the mail to arrive to receive news from a friend.”
So what conclusion did I come to with my pondering? Is it easier or harder to maintain friendships in the social media age? I think it’s both. It’s easier to keep up with really close friends and that has been helpful given the distances I live away from some of them. it is also harder because like my one friend said there is the tendency to not work at the friendship. Ultimately it comes down to this, regardless of the medium, relationships and friendships are a two way street. If one person is not extending out that hand of friendship, then the other person can have their hand out all day and it won’t be reciprocated. However, that doesn’t mean we don’t keep extending it out. It would be easy to become cynical and withdrawn if one’s self esteem was based on that. But as followers of Jesus, believers can show love and friendship to others. That was the cool thing that Jesus did. He made friends with sinners. Some of those people rejected him but he still loved them anyway. That’s what I want to be like. I want to be more like Jesus. And in this social media age, I want to be like Jesus on Facebook, Twitter and face to face.