Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Best Friends Forever: A Myth?

By Christine Chew

People can befriend over hundreds, even thousands, of friends on Facebook, but how many are actually real friends? A true friend is someone who tries to better you for your own good, but respects the choices you decide to make in the end. They are trustworthy, stay true to their promises, offer good advice and assistance in times of need, and most importantly, they continue to do all of this even when it is inconvenient for them.

I have over 800 friends on Facebook but why is it that I can only name a handful who I can consider a good friend? Although online social networks, instant messaging, and texting may be a good resource to connect with someone you just met or an old friend from the past, this convenience is becoming detrimental to friendships in the future because there is a lack of personal interaction.

Friendship used to be rare and precious. Greek philosopher Aristotle defines friendship in his book, “Nicomachean Ethics,” as mutual love and wishing good upon the other friend. He also groups friendship into three different categories:

1) The first kind of friendship is between friends who love each other for their pleasantness so that each friend makes the other feel good in some way, either comforting them in times of need or giving them some support and hope. 

2) The second kind of friendship is between friends who love each other for their usefulness so that each friend is beneficial to one another, such as giving good advice when needed.

3) The third kind of friendship is a strong and everlasting one where it is made up of people who are both good to each other and alike in excellence.

The third friendship is a compromise of the other two friendships because it consists of people who are on the same level of greatness and do not require pleasantness or usefulness from someone else. 

Now in 2012, it seems as though only the first and second kind of friendships exist today. William Deresiewicz, author of “A Jane Austen Education: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter,” explains that friends today “tell white lies, make excuses when a friend does something wrong, and do what we can to keep the boat steady. We’re busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free.” He labels these friends the false friend or flatterer. This is because no matter how bad a person’s deeds may be, the false friend will continue to wrongfully praise and flatter them rather than scorn them just to avoid conflict. This common practice between friends has steered friendships to a superficial path, but what caused it?

There is a correlation between technology and friends. The more advanced technology is, the greater number of friends can be achieved. However, these friendships are not genuine because people choose the false friend out of the friend pool. The process of making friends has become too convenient for our own good. Rather than taking the time to know someone through lunch dates and phone calls, all it takes is one click on a social networking site such as Facebook or MySpace to “confirm” friendship. There, you can essentially access a person’s whole life on one page—from where they went to high school, where they attend college now, their favorite music and television shows, even to their photo albums of their private life. There is no need in having a meaningful conversation to find out all this information. On top of that, social networking users can easily find other friends based on their listed common interests without meeting the person. Because of this, friendships are not as sacred anymore and newly acquired friends may not be appreciated as much since there is little to no effort involved in making them.

On the other hand, just as simple as it is to make a friend, it is also quite effortless to get rid of one. When someone deletes a “friend” on Facebook, it makes their separation official because they are no longer in that person’s friend pool. Other Facebook users may view the deletion of friendship as an announcement. Because of how easy it is to “unfriend” someone, people are growing wary of upsetting their friends in fear of losing them in a split second. This causes friendships to be frauds if both parties constantly worry about hiding their criticisms from each other when they should be sharing those criticisms in order to improve one another. Yet, a small argument or fight could potentially lead to a speedy friendship breakup from the click of a button on the computer or even on a cellphone, without regards as to how much time and effort were put into the friendship in the past. It seems so much easier to find new friends instead of mending old friendships.

How can we fix this problem?

It’s important to take advantage of technology instead of relying on it. The next time you complete a big project at work or school, you’re most likely going to tweet about it. Just don’t assume your closest friends will find out that way and then get upset when they haven’t congratulated you. Make sure you call them and tell them yourself about your accomplishment. They’ll feel more honored that you’re reaching out and sharing this celebratory moment with them.

The same goes if you’ve just had a fight with your friend. There’s no need for public name-calling followed by a spree of deleting your friend and removing all your tagged pictures. You don’t want to cause a scene online just like you wouldn’t want to cause a scene at a restaurant. Just give it a day or two and talk to your friend privately. It’s easier to make up when you haven’t displayed your whole life to everyone through a computer screen.

Even though friendships have changed over time, it doesn’t have to be for the worse. Technology, if used the right way, can strengthen friendships instead of breaking them.


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