Friendship. That one word crosses all boundaries and borders, cultures and races, uniting mankind. A confounding desire shared by humans across the globe, regardless of ethnic diversity. Unfortunately, though, it seems that as modern times have changed the world with technology and engineering, they have failed to change the friendship policy to match. These are no longer the days of The Pink Ladies and the The T-Birds, nor is it Bro’s Before Ho’s and Chick’s Before Dick’s. It’s a dog eat dog world now, everyone out for the next best thing at any price, selling out anyone for a better opportunity. We are desperately in need of a friendship revolution now, especially with the heightened problem of bullying becoming a more permanent fixture in the mainstream.
Once upon a time before the internet and cellular communication, we were limited to the children in our neighborhoods and our schools to meet and make friends. That same limited quarry-style of picking who would be your “friend” continued on into adulthood, if you even left your town for college or to spread your oats in new soil. Once you were gainfully employed, your selection would then be limited to co-workers at your workplace and those taking up residence in your current neighborhood. These people were almost always of the same socio-economic class, sharing similar interests, similar intelligence levels, and similar goals in life. You saw each other in person, frequently. Regularly. Forced to speak face to face, or at least without distractions and interruptions from the device itself, on a rotary phone. The world moved at a much slower place and people took time to people with each other. They wanted to have connections with others who shared common interests and have interactions with them simply for fun and the sheer joy of it all. Not because that friend’s image would boost theirs. Not because that person had connections that could help you with your personal motives. And NOT because they wanted someone close to them to push around and manipulate. You were friends because you genuinely like the other’s company and always had a good time with each other, trusting them to stay true to you as you would them. That’s a far cry from what friendship is now, a rarity of the blue moon sort, actually.
Nowadays, we have a whole new world to live in, within our cellular phones. Now, though, they’re just called phones, specifying if it’s a landline instead. Who would’ve foreseen that coming back in the late eighties when we were fascinated with call-waiting! We have dozens of other gadgets that can open the windows into this world wide web, pushing the pace that we live life at faster and faster, with it’s endless amount of possibilities at our fingertips. The internet has changed global communication drastically over the past 50 years and the ripple effects can be felt in every aspect of our existence. Including, the meaning of and the ways we do friendship. Our quarries with which to choose our friends have become boundless, infinite in choices and possibilities, if language barriers weren’t taken into consideration. With access to explore every fleeting or aberrational personal interest that crosses our mind, if only but temporarily, we are easily connecting to other people doing exactly the same, and creating relationships without having had a single physical interaction between them, unable to see them as a whole person, merely just an opinionated voice instead. With that change, we are losing those crucial face to face interactions that would trigger our subconscious to filter our behavior to that which is socially acceptable, in good taste and manners, with full social graces in tact to the best of our abilities.
Humans read each other for facial expressions and body language when they interact with one another. A friendship, in general, is built up over time when two people with common interest find that they are attracted to the ease with which they can read and understand those subliminal cues, allowing them to get along with one another on a level differently than others of that shared common interest. If we’re not losing good, quality time with friends because we’re over-scheduling ourselves, working tirelessly to pay to keep up with the expanding technology-induced materialism epidemic that’s become a new standard of successfulness, than we’re losing it in the making of these friendships online. Neither situation can really be changed, but we can change how we look at our friendships and compensate for the impersonal lack of face to face interaction with awareness of our own filters and modeling of socially acceptable behavior whether we can be seen or not when we’re communicating.
Online friendships, particularly, need to be governed with a much stricter adherence to personal accountability and social graces than any other type of friendship. You can’t just go out and have fun in person, doing stuff together where you can see each other’s comfort zones, sense the vibe they’re giving off, and choose your course of action appropriately. Through a gizmo or thingamajig, there’s only words on a screen to create the same pants-pissing-belly-bending-lung-aching laughter from an all-in-good-nature, absurdly ridiculous, comedic scene with. This allows us all to feel the protection of the screen and be the hair-let-down, inner-wild-child version of ourselves since our conscious isn’t around to switch on our socially-acceptable behavior filter. It doesn’t fear the same social embarrassment with words, memes, and photos, as it does face to face. Like everything else that’s too good of a good thing in life, the key here is moderation. Not everyone does moderation well. Some people get carried away easily, but it’s hard to pick ’em out in this case, because the screen protects us from actually seeing what toned down version of themselves they really are in real life. These people aren’t aware of how far is too far, sometimes. Or they’re oblivious to the fact that they aren’t the only one’s running around with their filters turned down, and take everything personally. It’s so very easy for people to misconstrue the intention behind the words on their screens without seeing the other person and being able to interpret those very important body language and facial expression cues we ambiguously give off during physical interactions. That’s where personal accountability becomes such a major component in maintaining friendships with people solely online. It would greatly reduce the amount of online bullying going on.
Personally, I consider having a friendship online a lot like being a glorified counselor and getting a glorified counselor in return. Instead of peeling back someone’s layers to get inside that cave where the inner freak lies, we’re peeling back the freak layers to get a glimpse of the real person who exists somewhere beyond the words on the screen. They give us reprieve from our personas in both the real and online worlds, letting us feel understood in both realms. But, we also have to consider that, even though we’re breaking through to the softer, more reserved versions of ourselves that we wear outside of the internet, their filters will still be lowered out of comfort. Unlike face to face conversations, there’s no ability to interrupt one another or correct a misinterpretation until you’ve typed a response. And the conversations could be spread over days or weeks, giving both of you the necessary free time to spread the misinformation around unbeknownst to either of you, before you realize that your friend had it all wrong in the first place and try to set them straight. In the meantime, that mixed-up info can set people off, irk them in a way that urges them to speak up and take action in a way they would NEVER do face to face, thinking it’s for all the right reasons. We’re so quick to assume the worst about everyone online, never giving anyone the benefit of doubt, before reacting without filter. The bullies are out for blood and a war is brewing over something petty and misinterpreted.
Friendships outside of the internet are suffering at the hands of technology as well. It’s hard to balance who you are in person with the person you are without your social graces. There’s a fine line between your types of friends and where the filter is switched. Going back and forth between seeing each other face to face and communicating via the internet can affect the fate of your relationship. Not everyone is understanding of who you are from one realm to the next, confusing who you truly are and what your intentions may be. And then there’s those people who get totally carried away without their filter. Those people may be the greatest friend in person, but not online. They easily bully others without fear of recourse because they don’t think they’re even being bullies or hurting someone because they can’t see them or their body language. They just think they’re right and have the situation with which they’re defending or contesting, pegged. These people out to impress everyone, think that they are something special compared to everyone else involved when they’re online. They don’t see how the way they are from real life to online is different and continuously make drama wherever they are.
We really need to be more aware of who we are in both worlds and how our actions will affect others both with and without those filters on, if we want to change the way we do friendship. Personal accountability, again. Regardless of where you are, just think before you speak or type, not just of yourself but those you care about. If there could be any sort of trickle effect from your words that could be misunderstood or taken out of context, then don’t say it at all! No one should feel that their friends can’t be trusted. No one should feel that their friends will turn on them, given the right circumstance. In this day and age, self-awareness is the key to successful anything. Knowing who you are, what you stand for, and what you believe in is easier to discover and figure out than ever before. But, it’s also easier to say that there’s only one right way even after seeing all the different ways possible when searching for your own, because the means to broadcast your personal opinion is out there everywhere at everyone’s fingertips. Be a good friend. A good human. Accept differences from everyone. After ALL this time on earth, hasn’t mankind discovered and adapted to the fact that there’s NO one right way to do, see, believe, or interpret ANYTHING?
The great thing about friendship is that it’s all your choice. You don’t have to maintain a friendship that you don’t want to. Only, it seems as though we are doing more and more of just that. With the current times geared towards newer, bigger, better things, materialism has become an acceptable quality among not just the upper crust, but everyone. Technology has paved the way for everything to be tweaked overnight, shipped within 24 hours, built from scratch to fully operational in less than a week. Yet our economy is tanked. The funds are harder to come by, work is nearly impossible to find within your qualified zone, and greed is at it’s all time high. All with an unlimited quarry to choose our compatible partners of attraction for platonic connectivity from. Our quest for friendship no longer relies solely on finding someone to simply enjoy the act of living life alongside each other with an attractive quality based on similarities in lifestyle choices or special interests. Our greed and materialism have become significant factors in the company we keep, and it’s not so much of a good thing. The loyalty we saw portrayed in the movie Grease captures the loyalty and camaraderie of friendships back in the days of our parents and grandparents. Maybe even great-grandparents for some. Fast forward through the eighties and you get the movie, Stand By Me. Another accurate portrayal of the meaning of friendship to that generation. In the nineties you’ve got Save The Last Dance, Can’t Hardly Wait, and The Mighty Ducks, and Sister Act, among dozens of others. But what movie do we have to define friendship by in this day and age? The movie, Mean Girls.
Everyone is making friends with others, in the real world and online, for the benefits involved. What that person can bring to their table, add to their image, or mask a shortcoming of theirs. The internet makes it possible to see your friendship candidate intimately without the normal getting to know each other period, deciding based on who they present themselves to be, rather than who they are as a person. Basically, judging a book by it’s cover instead of by it’s content. We need to stop looking at people as pawns for our game of life and make them our supporters and cheerleaders again. Acceptance of the unexpected is critical to making this revolution a success, too. Opening our hearts and minds to the fact that each and every person out there in this world has their own way, their own style, their own beliefs, and accept the fact that it’s acceptable to them, regardless of how different it is from you. Diversity has given humans the tools to grow this world into the fast-paced, super charged empire of technology that allows communication to cross every boundary previously in place, changing the meaning of friendship forever. It is our responsibility to make that change a positive experience for not only ourselves, but our children and generations to come. Be accountable for your filter and the way it affects others. Don’t become a bully by attacking those who didn’t satisfy your needs from them or misread a contextual cue, just walk away and try again with a new approach to making friends. One that isn’t for unnecessary personal motives.
We’re all just human underneath the exterior views, capable of screwing up and making gigantic mistakes we can spend the rest of our lives trying to set right again. Especially with online friendships, because that lack of face to face interaction can misconstrue the true intentions of each another, causing unfiltered emotions to rampage across that world wide web until you feel you’ve made your point. We need to make friendship a matter of the heart again. Be responsible for our actions, our filters, and our choices. Be accountable for who we are and how we act, in both the real world and online. Until we begin to hold ourselves to higher standards, bring back the loyalty and kindness in replace of the selfishness and power trip we’ve exchanged them for, there cannot be a friendship revolution.
We all need to look deep within ourselves and decide that today is the day we’re going to step up to the plate and take charge of our own selves and stop trying to take charge of everyone else. Live for love, accept the unacceptable, embrace diversity, and be the friend to others that you would want them to be to you. Let’s redefine friendship and revolutionize the way we do it. Go on and be a real friend today, you never know who might make the greatest cheerleader of your life…. until you try without the ulterior motives attached.
Part 2: www.Friendship102.com/Revolution