THE BLOG

Is the Way We Navigate Friendships Changing?

23/11/2015 12:03 GMT | Updated 20/11/2016 10:12 GMT

A strange thing happened to me the other day. I lost a follower on a social media site and it actually made me feel sad.

As followers come and go I don't usually mind. I understand that is the nature of social media - it is fast-paced, often impersonal and one has to grow a thick skin to survive it. But this loss hurt me. Because it was a friend I had known for many years and though we are not close any more, and indeed have not seen each other for some time, we still connected through social media and I felt that he was still in my life a little bit in that way. So I was sad when I saw he had decided to un-follow me. And I found myself going through reasons in my head as to why I had upset him, if indeed I had upset him. Then, I found myself looking at my posts to find clues as to why he decided to pick that moment to leave me. Then, the third stage, I began to convince myself he must have hit the wrong key and made a mistake.

Ultimately, I gave myself a good shake and thought about how silly it was to analyse in such great detail that one little thing that happened on that one social media site.

Thinking about it more widely though, I have seen a real shift over the past decade in how I make friends and how my friendships happen. I imagine I'm not alone in that. Where once I would speak to my friends often on the telephone, we now carry out most of our contact without speaking at all - we text, email, and other messaging methods, to arrange our plans. And it isn't uncommon to spend an evening exchanging messages about a TV programme, which we are watching in separate houses.

How strange to have become so remote when the technology and world around us has become so advanced. And how strange that the very things that were designed to bring us closer together may actually be facilitating our separation.

I see the way we communicate with friends and make friends changing all the time. Where once one might make friends through fairly traditional means - at school, college, in the pub, at social gatherings - now, it is commonplace to make friends in the virtual world who you become very close to but in some instances never meet.

I've had this myself. I am part of an online blogging community of wonderful and inspiring women and I feel I could call some of them actual friends now, albeit in a different way to my real world friends.

It's all well and good reflecting on how things have changed but what about for the future generation?

I look at my children and whilst they are still only small I anticipate that their experiences of friendship will be very different to that which I and my friends grew up with. Do technology and social media do that? Or is it just that we carry on evolving the way we approach our friendships anyway?

I see my children in their nursery settings making friends just as I did as a small child, but I know this may change as they grow up and become more aware of influences around them. I wish I had a glimpse into the future so I could warn them if things get tough. As they navigate friendships, are they going to be faced with more challenges than I did or just different ones? For example, bullying has become something that has left the classroom and entered children's homes online. That's a frightening thought.

Will my children be able to hold on to the social skills they develop as small children once the pressures of technology enter their worlds?

Will my children experience the pressures of wanting to be accepted and liked online? Will that be their validation of themselves or will they brush it off and see what's around them in the real world?

Will they even know this is an issue for their parents, because it is all they have ever known?

I don't have the answers to these questions but I think it is important to think about them. And important to be able to adapt the way I think so I can help my children to embrace a future of adulthood that may be very different to my own.