Are You My Friend?

26 Aug 2015

Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” beautifully defines the essence of what makes a fRiEnD. As the chorus goes…

You just call out my name

And you know wherever I am

I’ll come running to see you again

Winter, spring, summer or fall

All you have to do is call

And I’ll be there

You’ve got a friend

Gone were the days when friendship was developed through multiple heart-to-heart interactions between two persons over time. Since when, fRiEnD has assumed a different meaning?

The advent of social media apps and sites has given fRiEnD a radically different meaning. Today, fRiEnD includes someone you simply added electronically to your online networks. So what are some key differences between fRiEnD in the past and present?

Quantity

Number of Friends. We probably have many more friends now as compared to the past. Our social circles were much smaller back then and restricted largely to people around us, at home, schools and work places. Today, we can easily connect electronically with others, which greatly expanded our social circles.

Interactions

Frequency. The ease of connection through the internet greatly increased the frequency of interactions between people. While we might only catch up with our friends once a week in the past, we are able to send them multiple messages everyday now.

Face-to-Face. Traditionally, face-to-face interactions formed the basis of friendships. However, today, friends probably include many people whom we have never met in person. I believe face-to-face interaction is still critical in facilitating deepening of interpersonal relationships.

Quality Exchanges. As friends consisted of people around us, we had more opportunities to get to know one another through sharing of life experiences. Exchanges on social media today tend to be more superficial. Due to the public nature of social media, we often do not share personal matters on online platforms. There is also a tendency to project a socially desirable image of ourselves through sharing of “happy” experiences and hence only shows one aspect of who we are.

Support

Nature. Is support limited to just an electronic “Like” or short encouraging comment? Obviously, I would be perceived as bias if I do not acknowledge the possibility of receiving good social support from online friends 😛 While they may not come running to see you… (You may also not feel comfortable seeing someone whom you have never met in person just when you are in a bad shape…) It is still possible to receive helpful social support on social media – a listening ear, an encouragement, an awareness that you are not alone…

Social media platforms have brought about changes to our definitions of friends. Nevertheless, I believe, deep down in our hearts, the essence of friendship as illuminated in Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” remains. Amidst your hundreds, thousands, millions… of friends, is there at least one who will always be there for you when you need someone? Conversely, will you also be the dependable support for someone?

Let us focus on building meaningful relationships and may we find the mutually supportive friend(s) in our lives 🙂

Warmest Regards, SLC

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