Thanks to technology, you can connect with more people
Why is it such a challenge these days to enjoy enduring and meaningful friendships?
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
Technology may be partly to blame. Texting, social networking, and other social media have made it seem possible to maintain a friendship without being in someone’s presence. Meaningful conversations have been replaced by rapid-fire texts and tweets. “People are having fewer face-to-face interactions,” says the book Artificial Maturity. “Students spend more time in front of a screen and less time with each other.”
In some cases, technology can make friendships seem closer than they really are. “Recently,” says 22-year-old Brian, * “I realized that by texting my friends to see how they were, I was doing a lot of the work. Then I stopped texting them to see how many of them would take the initiative to contact me. Honestly, it’s been very few. Apparently, some friends weren’t as close as I thought.”
But cannot texting and social media help you keep in touch with people and thereby strengthen your friendships? Yes
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Define real friendship. The Bible describes a friend as someone who “sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) Is that the kind of friend you want? Is that the kind of friend you are? To help you answer those questions, write down three qualities that you would want a friend to have. Then write down three qualities that you bring to a friendship. Ask yourself: ‘Which of my online contacts display the qualities that I value in a friend? Which qualities would those friends say I bring to the friendship?’
Establish priorities. Online friendships are often based on a shared interest, such as a hobby. However, having common values is more important than having similar interests. “I may not have a lot of friends,” says 21-year-old Leanne, “but the ones I do have make me want to be a better person.”
Get out and meet people. There is nothing quite the same as face-to-face conversation, where you and another person can observe the subtle nuances of voice tone, facial expression, and body language.
Write a letter. Old-fashioned as it may seem, letter writing sends the message that you care enough about someone to give him or her your undivided attention. That kind of focus is rare in today’s multitasking world. For example, in her book Alone Together, Sherry Turkle writes of one young man who says he cannot remember ever receiving a personal letter in his life. Referring to the time when people wrote letters, he says: “I miss those days even though I wasn’t alive.” Why not make use of this ‘old technology’ to make friends?
The bottom line: Real friendship involves more than just keeping in touch. It requires that you and your friend display love, empathy, patience, and forgiveness. Those qualities ultimately make a friendship rewarding. But they are difficult to display when you only talk online.
^ par. 8 Some names in this article have been changed.