This week I have been thinking about relationships – of any kind – and how they develop, are maintained and sometimes fail. I think it is an interesting area, especially now, as technology has changed and is changing so much that things we took for granted when I was a child seem like a different universe away.
Social networking in something which we will only really see the impact a generation or two down the line. The ability to stay in a touch with so many school and university friends, albeit in a shallow, often passive way, is something that did just not exist in my adolescence. If you wanted to stay in touch with people because they really mattered to you wrote to them, called them or made them top of the list to meet up with in the holidays. Then there were perhaps an extended group that you would meet up with once or twice a year, maybe at Christmas and the summer. But the rest, they would gradually fade until they became a part of your past and no longer part of the present, let alone the future.
Now the likes of Facebook seem to be there to keep that group from fading away by largely doing the work for you. In theory at least you do not need to have that odd contact to catch up, because you already know what they are up to – you read it in their news feed. Perhaps you ‘liked’ it when they got engaged. And of course if they have filled in the field you can wish them a jolly happy birthday on their wall every year.
I’m not mocking this. On the contrary I think it is fascinating and I enjoy and appreciate it as I do feel sorry that I am not in touch still with people I knew when I was younger and would be fascinated to know what they are up to now.
But they are not my best friends, the people I would trust most and who would be there for me in adversity. Social networking is not good enough to sustain these relationships. They need more work than that.
This is what was going through my head on this topic. Relationships that are important to you need to be worked at. They do not maintain their intimacy by exchanging the odd public comment on a wall, or timeline or whatever they decide to call it tomorrow. It needs regular communication and sharing, sharing that is not public but between a few individuals; and you need to meet up every so often, if only to laugh at each other’s increasing waistline and reducing hair. Just as quality time spent as a couple will put a strain on a marriage, the same goes to friendships, and perhaps even more so. Because, if you have so many ‘friends’ how do you know who are the ones who really love you from the other 500+? You need to see them in person, to share beer and/or cake and also share the confidences that you would never share publicly. I just hope that the current generation release this and put the effort in because the alternative is not a nice image for me; a host of people with hundreds of shallow acquaintances and a lack of what I have – a small number of intimate friends I can always have fun with and will be there when it all goes wrong. We are meant to be in relationships I think; and networking can facilitate that but it cannot and will not be a suitable replacement for engaging in the old fashioned meeting up, at least once in a while.