In a world increasingly fragmented by technology, could friendship be the unnoticed underdog?
Some quick facts
- Did you know that in a 2018 survey of 20,000 people, almost half said they no longer have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend on a regular basis. When compared to similar studies conducted in the 1980’s only 20% said they felt this way.
- In Japan there is a proliferation of companies that hire out actors to pretend to be peoples’ family members, romantic partners or friends. There is nothing sexual in these arrangements, merely people who are paying for attention from another human.
- Much is written about today’s teenagers who are less likely to hang out with friends, spending increasing amounts of time alone. No need for me to depress you with the facts in this regard. I know that you know.
We are all aware that increasing social media addiction has impacted our personal relationships – ask most husbands, wives and children. The statistics in this regard are no longer a surprise. Is anyone doing anything about this though? No, I think not. In fact, since COVID, the de-humanising of our relationships has gone from bad to worse and loneliness is increasingly becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
Real in-person, human-to-human friendships matter
What is seldom discussed in much detail is the impact technology and the social media madness is having on genuine, real, eyeball-to-eyeball friendships. Yes, those ones where you actually speak to each other, looking another human in the eye and taking an interest in them, giving them – not your phone – your undivided attention.
Or, in fact just making a phone call? Remember that old-school activity involving fingers, a bunch of numbers, and the act of a person punching in a contact number? That thing resulting in a strange, unfamiliar ringing sound, and then, almost as if magically, you get to hear your friend’s actual voice? And in that moment you can immediately tell, just by the tone of their voice or the way they answered the phone how their day was unfolding.
I know right, quite an amazing thing!
A regret you definitely don’t want
I recently read a book on the top regrets of people facing death. Yes, not a favourite family dinner topic, but one that is none the less extremely important (a blog for a different day though).
For now I only want you to take note of one of the top five regrets, “I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends”.
Often our children move on. Thats life. Not great, however true.
Even if you are one of the fortunate ones and they don’t, they did not know you when you were a flower-power, free-love, long-haired hippie in university. They did not wildly cheer you on as you rocked the Macarena or waxed the Floss after way too many Jagerbombs.
They have not shared in all your laughter or wiped away your tears as you ate tubs of ice cream in the dark. They have no knowledge of those well-kept secrets reserved only for the realms of bottles of wine and genuine friendship.
Don’t let it happen
As people grow older they miss their friends and they wish they had not lost touch with these important people in their lives.
You see, in the process of building our own lives, our all-important careers and nurturing those loving families, we imagine that our friends will just always be there. Life, however, moves on far faster than you imagined, and suddenly we find ourselves with no-one who actually understands you. No-one other than you who remembers the person you used to be and no-one who knows anything about your history.
It was in reading this that I was starkly reminded that loneliness is never a lack of having people around. There are loads of “platforms” to ensure that you can surround yourself, even if not physically, with “friends” that come in all shapes and sizes. This is not the problem, however.
The problem is a lack of people around you that understand and accept you. Who else accepts you with no judgement the way an old friend who has walked a long road with you does?
Hold them close
People ache in the longing for the company of one who gets you, one who shares memories with you. Someone who is willing to simply listen because they know the demons you have had to overcome along the way; the price you had to pay. Someone who relates to you because you have walked a road together and they camped out in the closet with you and those skeletons for as long as it took for you to look in the mirror without shame or guilt.
They know you. Not because they see your fake life on Instagram, no, because they have been intimately involved in your messy, imperfect, faulty, colourful, memorable and beautiful life.
You have shared experiences and memories which connect your souls.
Don’t let them go. Hold them close, call them, spend time with them, tell them you love them and that they mean the world to you.
Things are never quite as scary when you have true friends.