We live in an ultra-connected world: between the speed of technology and the ever-present stream of content from social media, it is difficult to ever really be alone. Texting, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook—even email—are all platforms on which we are always reachable. Modern technology has totally altered communication--it is so easy in today’s world to stay in touch with friends and family, no matter the distance.
The flip side of living in a world in which we are always reachable, however, is that we are EXPECTED to always be reachable. The challenges of friendship have changed; severing a streak on snapchat is akin to breaking a promise. Miss a text or turn your phone off for a couple of hours and suddenly people assume you’re ignoring them. This change in attitude isn’t the fault of any one individual.
It’s just how it is.
Social media has become so ingrained in our everyday lives that many of us have unknowingly accepted these new ‘rules’ of friendship. We apologize if we don’t see a text for a few hours. The first thing many of us do when we wake up (including myself) is check our phones. We participate in continuous group-chats, we snapchat daily, we document the everyday occurrences of our lives on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, et cetera, et cetera.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—I am not anti-social media. I love being able to talk to my friends away at other colleges. Half of my family lives on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean—I want to stay up-to-date on their lives and accomplishments. I share plenty of pictures and updates on various social medias. I do believe, though, that this significant societal change begs the question: how do we deal with it?
How do we adjust our attitudes towards friendship in a world where alone time doesn’t really exist? How do we gauge what an authentic friendship is? What is the limit?
The answer is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. It is up to us to set our own boundaries; we have a right to object to these unspoken rules of modern-day society. Friendship is not a contract that requires us to check in with every important person in our lives daily; real friends do not just disappear overnight. Choosing to take a break from social media or even deleting it should not be the equivalent of ‘going off the grid’ or refusing to adapt to a technology-driven world.
We have a right to demand alone time; we should be able to disconnect when we so choose. Taking time to recharge our social battery makes actual real-life interactions much more enjoyable. That is only possible if we are really, truly alone. Social media was designed to facilitate communication and make seeing friends easier; it is not meant to be a replacement for legitimate relationships.
A real friend is one that exists in the tangible world as well as the digital one.