Are My Friends Really My Friends?
The New York Times Company · Teddy Wayne · 5/12/18
The New York Times Company
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9 min read


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  • bill - 9 months ago
    Right up my alley.

    I gave up Facebook, Instagram AND my iPhone (!) in one fell swoop. It was definitely jarring. I now have ~45 numbers in my flip phone - half family, half friends - and I definitely feel like I have *way* more emotional energy to give to the closest people in my life. I'm still not crazy about phone calls, but I have a few good ones every week.

    This quote rang true for me: "The result, then, can be a glut of old acquaintances that are not as easily forgotten online and which therefore stifle the development of newer, in-person friendships."

    For me, until I cut the cord, I had no clue just how much space these *random* people were taking up in my brain and heart.

    The more I think about it, the crazier it all is. Especially since a vast majority of users on Facebook and Instagram are just silent lurkers, you really have no idea who you're broadcasting to when you post an update to your network. What a strange/sad reality, just lobbing little pieces of information out into the universe and letting a soulless, automated system distribute bit-sized pieces of your life to an almost entirely random subset of people you kinda/sorta know.

    The web in 2018 lacks intentionality.
    • tdsimpson90 - 9 months ago
      oh my gosh bill you have such a bleak view of social media! That last sentence made me laugh.

      The same quote from the article rang true for me as well about random people taking up so much of your attention. This happened for the longest time without me even realizing it, and at some point, it finally hit me, like why am I giving so much attention to people I don't care about. Now I think about that a lot more and I'm much more liberal with unfriending/unfollowing people.

      Occasionally I consider getting rid of my personal facebook but I feel like I would be so cut off from social events. My friends that are not on fb miss out on a lot of things because of it. I know that's not an original argument (like the "I can't be vegan bc I could never give up cheese!" lol) but it just isn't worth it to me. If I can use it in a healthy way, (i.e. checking it every once in a while for events without spending hours scrolling mindlessly), why not keep it around for its usefulness?
      • bill - 9 months ago
        lol. Well I'm glad I gave you a chuckle!

        I definitely do have a bleak view of social media and I'm sure that it has a lot to do with reallyread.it. I have read so much about the topic and it genuinely freaks me out. So - yeah - I fall into the category of "alarmist."

        Your approach is totally responsible, *reasonable* and balanced. But I just have an addictive personality. I'm very "all or nothing." And I think a lot of other people are like me - they struggle to maintain an appropriate amount of restraint.
      • joanne - 9 months ago
        agree...about the cheese and the usefulness (and fun) of keeping up with people we really care about.
  • jlcipriani - 9 months ago
    Is this actually a problem or just another phenomenon to which people respond positively or negatively based on personality and habits? I completely understand that social media can be experienced as destructively hypnotic and energy draining or merely boring/unpleasant. And I certainly know people (see the other comments on this article) who have tried it and decided it was taking more than it was giving and exited left. However, I do not know anyone (not old, young or even wildly young) who has lost the ability to engage in person - to express interest and compassion and make eye contact and gather round a pizza and crack jokes. Does anyone else actually know people who have been socially hobbled by Facebook and its progeny?
    • joanne - 9 months ago
      I think it manifests itself in very subtle ways. What I've seen working with young people (in my business) is an increase in anxiety and depression. I know there are several causes for everything, but I believe being constantly plugged in and checking on likes, friends, people you barely know can make you feel bad. Young people have told me so. I also think it's different for "older" people. We know we can live without this and I think we are more intentional in our choices. Young kids don't know life without it.
  • jamie - 9 months ago
    I am on the fence on this one, interesting how there are 3 comments on this and all have an abnormal relationship with social media, I quit facebook after being on it briefly, the other commenter moved away from the 'smart phone mind-sink-hole , and another commenter readily admits being on facebook but never posting. I believe most people are much more involved with the 'tech of community'. The author of this accurately stated that this phenomena is beneficial for overly shy or lonely people. Connection is very important on any level. Like anything, moderation seems to be the key. I do like occasionally being able to see what people in my life (that I have lost contact with) are doing.
  • joanne - 9 months ago
    Fascinating. The Dunbar number seemed so high to me....the number of people that would attend your wedding or funeral (100-200). How quickly it dissipates to 1 or 2 real buddies. I am on social media (I consider getting off it daily) but do not comment or connect to anyone in that way. It's a little voyeristic, I know, but i try not to have it take up too much room in my head. I agree it is a strange state of affairs communicating with emojis, but for me better than telephone. My favorite communication is taking a walk with someone, silent, physical communication.