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Are we learning bad habits from our social networks?

 

With websites like Facebook and Twitter, we have several opportunities to expand our roster of “friends” and “followers.”

Sometimes, when I’m checking out my personal page on FB, I find my gaze gravitating over to the left, oh, about mid-page, and looking at the actual number of “friends” I have. Mine reads 179. Not a lot compared to the number some people have, but that’s still a lot of phone calls on birthdays to remember. But wait, that’s right, I don’t have to verbally wish them a happy birthday. I can just type those 13 characters into a space, and I am absolved of the sin of not actually speaking to my “friends” on their special day.

I began to think about this phenomenon we call social networking after reading an article in The New York Times. “It’s Not Me, It’s You” was centered around a woman who, when she was in her 20s, became friends with someone she seemed to have a lot in common with. As they grew older, the lady in the article discovered that her long-time friend was becoming an albatross around her neck, so she wrote her off and stopped taking her calls until the other woman got the message. Not exactly the most virtuous way to tell a friend you no longer want to hang out, but it worked.

Then the story moved on to talk about our new online culture and how “defriending” and “unfollowing” people have become acceptable practices, and with a click of the mouse, we can remove someone from our cyber lives pretty quickly, painlessly and easily. 

That made me question my own tactics for confirming or not confirming a friend request. So far, I haven’t “defriended” anyone. I sometimes wonder if I’m just too nosy for the ultimate act of removal, but am I really friends with all of those people? Am I a caring part of their lives? Do I help them when they need it or say or do anything that uplifts them when they’re down? Some of those 179 “friends” are very dear, close, personal friends. 

But some of them I really don’t know that well, and while I really do enjoy reading about their daily lives and appreciate their accepting my presence into their worlds, I just don’t want to forget what friendship is really all about.

Facebook, Twitter and websites like them are extremely useful tools in connecting with people we normally wouldn’t get the chance to know, but is it also preventing us, at times, from being a true friend to those people on our lists that we really do know and love? In this digital age, sometimes I believe we take the easy way out when it comes to demonstrating our role as a friend by allowing social networking to replace the human touch.

 

Angela Rogalski is a senior print journalism major who lives in Abbeville. Follow her on Twitter @abbeangel.