Gemma Styles | Contributing writer | Saturday, 15 April 2017

Gemma Styles: Have You Ever Thought About How The Internet Has Changed Your Friendships?

Gemma Styles: Have You Ever Thought About How The Internet Has Changed Your Friendships?

The Debrief: An 'Are u ok hun?' on someone's Facebook post isn't the same as sitting down an having an IRL conversation...

Liking someone’s Instagram is basically like saying hi, right? Anyone who’s ever been breadcrumbed can attest to this - there’s definitely a communicative element to something that should be fairly innocuous. But is this subtle form of keeping in touch changing the amount of time that we give to our friends?

Having a ‘catch up’ loses some of its meaning when you already know what they’ve been up to - you’ve probably seen it all on Instagram already - I think this may give rise to a tendency for more superficial friendships. What we see online is hardly the be all and end all of a person’s life, but when we’ve had the overview are we less likely to dig deeper and probe into the real goings on in someone’s life? A ‘hope ur ok hun’ on their Facebook post isn’t quite the same as sitting down over a brew and dissecting the argument they’ve just had, word for word. 

I was actually doing a lot of real life friendship last weekend on my friend Lizzy’s hen do - it was so nice to spend time with my bunch of uni friends but also made me realise how weirdly long it’s been since I’ve seen some of them… it didn’t feel as long because we can stay up to date via the perennial WhatsApp group and I kind of know what they’re up to from Facebook and Instagram, but there really is no substitute for time spent together. As great as it is that it’s easier to keep in touch with our smartphones, it’s good to remember what the real life bit feels like and that it’s not actually a substitute.

Maybe it’s something to do with how many friends we now have? When communication was less easy and more direct, I think it was more common to have a smaller group of close friends who you constantly speak to and spend all your time with, because you’d have to call them individually on their house phone or maybe at least keep up with an email chain. Now I think there is so much more opportunity for numerous, varied friendships such as on social media, there are a lot more people to keep track of and attempt to maintain relationships with. I get proper paranoia about keeping in touch with people and being a rubbish friend. 

It’s something I often consider when watching sitcoms like Friends (of course) where the group is so static for such a long period of time. Obviously it’s TV so helpfully you can just pair up couples in the group to make your characters easier to manage, but did they really not have anyone else close enter the fold in ten years? Now it seems unrealistic but perhaps in the 90s, when people weren’t so connected online, you could just get on with your lives with your friends and that was it. 

I definitely want to spend more time with people face to face. There’s nothing wrong with following and dipping into the lives of lots of friends online, but maybe it’s choosing who we want to see on a Sunday afternoon or a Thursday night after work that will really emphasise the ones we want to pour our hearts into.

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Instagram Does Not Equal Achievement 

The Complex Link Between Social Media And My Mood

How Twitter Became A Metaphor For My 20s

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