Are we in danger of becoming social-lites?

Oh, aren’t we all so very popular? We’ve received yet another friend request and we’ve exceeded the 338 ‘friends’ UK Facebookers average. So if we really are the flavour of the month, why are we stuck home alone on a Friday night with a microwave meal for one?

Why aren’t we out partying with our so-called friends, you know the ones that are constantly being wined and dined – and have an endless stream of photo posts to prove it?

You see we’re all obsessed by having the highest number of ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ and we get upset if only a few people ‘like’, ‘share’ or ‘retweet’ our own paltry offerings.

But how many of these individuals would even recognise us if we bumped into them in the street? Without cheating – can you name every single ‘friend’ you have on social media? Yes, you’ll list a great many of them; but not all. Some of your ‘friends’ will be people you’ve never even met; some you won’t have seen in physical form for years; others will be those you actively avoided for years at school or college but who you now share your inner-most feelings with online. One or two of us will be lucky enough to have been ‘accepted’ by a celebrity who probably mistook us for someone else – but do we really know them? Do we really want to?

And is it harmless fun or do we take it all too seriously? Has our desire to become a socialite actually turned turtle and created social-lites?

The internet has transformed our lives. It’s brought the whole world to us on a plate - or rather a tablet. (If it is so new and modern, why do we use ancient, almost Biblical, words like followers and tablets in a world where we share and pin things on posts? Then again it may well be the religion for the modern age – our hearts uplifted by a video of a cute kitten, a politician caught in a compromising situation or the sight of Kim Kardashian’s backside.)

Enter any UK living room on any given evening and you’ll see couples or entire families sitting together. Nice, happy scene you might think. But look a little closer and you’ll notice the glare of the smartphone or iPad screen in each face. Physically they’re together on the settee, but mentally they’re miles apart. Yes, they’re socializing – just not with each other. Nobody laughs out loud any more they just type “haha!!” with the number of exclamation marks implying how funny it was. If it’s hilarious they might even use upper case.

Social media has also enabled us to re-categorise our so-called friends. Here’s a few examples:

The Bragger – only posts pictures of themselves with their new (or someone else’s) flash car/house/partner.

The Needy – daily dose of “Can this day get any worse” or “Might as well name a bench after me in A&E” – prompting the compulsory response of “what’s up hun?” followed by a range of emoticons.

The ‘joker’ – regularly exclaims shocking news as a honey trap. Anyone who comments then has to fulfill a forfeit.

The holidaymaker – “we’re off for two weeks in the sunshine” - this one is music to any burglar’s ears.

And finally, The Uninteresting – those who are bereft of original thought and never create their own posts. These ‘friends’ just cling on to people by making unremarkable and insipid comments on other people’s posts like “lovely pic”.

So has the meaning of friendship changed? Has the difference between friends and acquaintances always overlapped. Well, bizarrely, it’s one of the world’s greatest fighters we turn to to sum up:

"Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you haven’t learned anything." - Muhammad Ali.

That will sting a few a social media-ites.

Noreen Coltman on 24th April 2015.


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