Why people today depend on lazy virtual friendships and Facebook ‘likes’

Published: May 22, 2017
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We prefer to sit behind a screen and tell ourselves that a like or comment on Facebook is an active way of creating connections, when in fact, it isn’t active or sociable at all. PHOTO: TWITTER

As I grow older, I’ve realised that one genuine friend matters more than the amount of friends you have. Real friendships, sincere ones, make all the difference to our lives. However, I’ve realised that these kinds of friendships are so rare these days. The concept of friendship itself has fizzled into something fickle and surface-based. I know that I have an x amount of friends on Facebook, an x amount of followers on Instagram, but barely any of those people can be classified as true friends.

What does one mean by sincere and genuine friendships? 

These are the friends that you call at 2am when everything comes crashing down. These are the friends that love you at your worst; the friends that make you laugh until your stomach hurts; these are the friends that never leave. But most people will agree with me when I say that it is challenging to nurture and sustain such relationships in today’s fast-paced world. One of the main reasons behind this is that when we are younger, it is easier to build strong bonds because we are surrounded by people who are also searching for meaningful connections. But as we venture into adulthood, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain friendships and develop new ones because we get so caught up with our careers, starting new lives and our families.

I believe people are increasingly turning towards social media to fill the void of meaningful connections. In today’s virtual world, they ‘connect’ with ‘friends’ on social networking sites such as FacebookInstagram and Snapchat.

These websites are a convenient medium for individuals because they do not require time and effort. And we all know how lazy our generation is; we prefer to sit behind a screen and tell ourselves that a like or comment on Facebook is an active way of creating connections, when in fact, it isn’t active or sociable at all. Honestly, these are just meaningless relationships and such casual connectivity in an electronic setting does not make up for deep and meaningful relationships.

However, I am not questioning the importance of social media and its power to bring people together. It has the ability to enable us to access and share more ideas and information than ever before and mobilise our thoughts and opinions. But we cannot and must not ignore that it can adversely impact the quality of our relationships as well.

A recent study found that people regularly un-friend their social media friends if they perceive their posts or comments as offensive or derogatory. In some cases, friends on social media use this medium to advance their agendas, spread news, or simply to promote themselves. Therefore, the negative effects associated with social media cannot be disregarded either. Instead of indulging in productive activities, people are spending more time at home with their electronic devices, surfing through activities of their so-called perfect friends on social media. Our new friends are our screens; it’s so rare to actually pick up a phone and call someone, even more so, actually meet with them face to face and have a conversation that is unhindered by a screen.

The problem with networking is that we are not getting consistent results for what we are looking for. To me, it feels like mixing different categories of people, who are all there for different reasons. Everyone is focused on their personal agenda, be it to find a new client, to raise awareness for their business, or connect with someone in the hope of developing a mutually beneficial relationship. Everyone is playing a different game, which is why there are usually no clear winners except for the ones who have a clear agenda.

Surrounding ourselves with real friends isn’t just selfish – it’s healthy. It elevates our mood and reminds us that we can trust those around us without constantly living in fear of being judged.

Similarly, we cannot develop a relationship of quality without healthy disagreements or conflicts. Disagreements are natural, because it is difficult to agree with your friend on every single point. Such friendships develop when friends concentrate on similarities rather than differences in thoughts or opinions. We need to understand that neither we nor our friends are perfect, and this imperfection needs to be respected.

There are so many ways to make real friends; we just need to put in effort that our generation does not like to make. We are selfish, and we believe that everything, even friendship, should be handed to us with a silver spoon. We simply need to set our priorities straight and take out time for our close friends. Instead of being constantly engaged with friends on social media platforms, we should opt for more meaningful activities such as spending time at a cafe, watching a movie together, playing a team sport or going to the gym together.

Let me tell you about my relationship with one of my close friends. We recently figured out a way to take out time from our busy schedules in order to stay connected, so we decided to start our own book club, where we meet once a month to discuss books and writing. It’s extremely productive, because it gives us a great mutual ground and allows us to talk about things of actual substance as opposed to gossiping.

These friendships have a significant impact on our happiness and well-being. We know that socially isolated people tend to be less happy and a considerable lack of social activity has serious impacts on our physical and mental health. The relationships we develop through social media do not fulfil our inner yearning for meaningful relationships. Thus, our focus should be on developing real life relationships instead of virtual ones. We need to learn to spend lesser time with our electronic devices and more time with actual humans in order to cultivate and nurture lasting friendships.

People who believe they lack quality friendships in their lives should make a resolution which pushes them to make an effort to form more effective and lasting friendships by prioritising them and engaging in meaningful and enjoyable activities with their friends.

So get your face away from your screen, leave the house and meet your friends. Tell them what’s important to you; show them that you value them more than your phone.

Shaziah Zuberi

Shaziah Zuberi

The author is a blogger about a variety of contemporary subjects and is based in Washington DC. She contributed to the book “Food Prints” and is currently working on her forthcoming book titled “A Taste of Pakistan in Fusion”. She tweets @ShaziahZ (twitter.com/ShaziahZ).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.