Friend: it’s a term flung around loosely in this day and age, especially among teenagers. Just like love and hate, and several obscene names that were once considered extremely offensive. All it takes is one walk down the school corridor to know that terms such as these, ones that my parents and the generation before us felt held strong meanings, now have no such power. “You know you love me”, “Oh, I hate you” and “that’s it, we are so not friends” are all commonly used phrases among today’s youth and while many adults stand in shock at such comments, they are all simply casual statements with no true meaning. We describe the people we add on Facebook in a similar easygoing manner. The people we communicate with on the social networking site become our “friends”, a term that once described a person we were attached to, enjoyed spending time with and who supported us, giving us assistance in times of need. The question is are they all really our friends? More to the point are the people we solely communicate with online actually our buddies or do we have more Facebook strangers than actual ‘friends’?
It is true that we all add our real friends as friends on Facebook. It makes sense. We like these people in real life and we want to communicate with them, so why not inbox them online instead of sending them an SMS; it’s definitely cheaper. Things don’t start to become weird until you see an average high school student, who has been in the area their whole life, has only been to two schools (primary and secondary) and has 15,000 friends. Surely everyone can see how this is unrealistic. 15,000 friends? Do you know 15,000 people who you actually socialise with and by socialise I mean, real, face-to-face, let’s grab a coffee or go to the movies or go to the pub tonight type socialising? Most of us would answer no. It would be nice, sure, but sadly we do not have 15,000 friends. If you honestly answered yes, congratulations! You are easily the most popular person on the planet, and possibly the most naÃ¯ve. An average person with 15,000 friends? Sorry, but you’re kidding yourself.
I know that in modern times there is no distinguishing between the cyber world and the “real” world, and it is true that the two have now become intertwined, but for me, at least, there is still a line that can be drawn between the two. Yes, we may do work online, and yes, we may communicate with our friends via social networking sites, but surely this will not become the extent of social interaction. We are like herd animals. We need a pack. We need support. We need love. We need protection from each other. We need the interplay that occurs daily between two human beings when they see each other face to face. These are the things we truly can’t live without, not electronic devices and profiles and statuses. If we’re being honest no amount of time on Facebook can ever replace the connection that we feel when we see someone in the flesh. The facial expressions, tone of voice, hand gestures. I don’t disagree with social networking or spending time online and use it just as much as the next person for both work and pleasure, but staring at my computer screen and seeing a little ‘hey’ pop-up on the screen will never compare to the smile that appears on a friend’s face when they greet me. Never.