What does having hundreds of virtual 'friends' mean for your real relationships?
If you were told ten years ago that you will go to bed at night and know exactly what all your friends did on that day without physically calling them, or that you will wake up in the morning and read what other people are having for breakfast, you surely would have laughed at them.
If they had told you that you will have the ability to know where your friends and others are without them telling you, you probably would’ve called them crazy.
But reality has changed. No longer do you need physical contact to be in contact. No longer do you need to pick up the phone, send a letter or make an appointment to see friends. Social media changed the way we live today.
But is this for the good?
I have nothing against technology and the way things are done today. I am a big fan of social media and networking. I find it great that we can keep up to date and that knowledge is at the tip of our fingers.
Social networking sites are great for keeping up with old friends. However, old friends still get married without inviting you. People get engaged and you still don’t realise immediately.
Friends start families and you only realise it when the baby gets born. Is this because we are in such a rushed world, or because we have learned how to live with not making an effort to know what goes on anymore?
Have we stopped caring?
The world is not a big place anymore and technology and the internet have made the impossible possible. That's great!
We can send big files instantly, search for knowledge and keep up to date with people who may have moved far away or drifted for other reasons.
A false sense of closeness
I think the problem comes in when eventually you want to keep up with so many old friends that you still don't know what’s happening in their lives.
Social networking is therefore great for keeping in contact with close friends, but rather a waste of time for keeping up to date with other friends if you are not going to invest one day per month to check their profiles.
"Although the numbers of friends people have on these sites can be massive, the actual number of close friends is approximately the same in the face to face real world," said Will Reader, Sheffield Hallam University.
A study found that most people have lots of friends on social networks, but of all the friends, they will still have around five close friends.
A recent study concluded the contrary, however. The survey did include mostly web enthusiasts, though, which could have somewhat influenced the results, but 85% said that the internet improved their relationships and that this will and should continue in the future.
The things people could possibly long for
I miss the days of writing letters. I remember back in the day when we sent little notes to each other in class, not a message over Mxit, or whatever the next big thing is.
I remember when boyfriends still wrote physical love letters, letters that smelled like the writer, and took you ages to read because of the handwriting. Nowadays I only get love letters over Facebook, or maybe a neatly typed letter once a year.
So yes, the internet is wonderful, but we have to remember who our true friends are and treasure a personal relationship.
We have to remember who we are and not rely so much on the internet and technology to define us. If possible, we need to make time to see the people that matter most to us.