Writing Award Winner: Friend

Writing Award Winner: Friend

Alisa Fominykh, Writer

“Oh Yeah, We’re Friends”

It seems so illogical for an idea as simple as friendship to be one of the many victims of technology, specifically social media, consumed world. The title of “friend” was once saved for those individuals who surpassed the role of a mere acquaintance and instead of one for whom we had an attachment towards or trusted with our secrets. However, nowadays a friend can be any one of my 498 Facebook friends, 677 Instagram followers or 232 Snapchat friends. Our social media dominated world deems it completely fine that I have probably not spoken to some of them in over a year now, that is, if I have even ever talked to them to begin with. I could certainly not tell you what is going on in most of their lives, or even the most basic facts about them.

The Oxford English dictionary defines a friend as “a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations,” which coincides with the belief a majority of people have prior to exposure on social media. This definition expresses how truly intimate friendship is, for it is not something that any two humans may experience with each other. Its intimacy can be seen with the well known saying, “I’d rather have a few close friends than a million acquaintances.” However, such aspirations in our digital age are almost impossible, since the many friends one has through means of social media is irrelevant; for it represents such an inaccurate number of individuals that we mistakenly call friends.

But, with the passage of time “friendship” has lost all meaning. For one, it seems foolish to keep real friends and individuals one barely talks to in the same line of communication. For both sets of people may receive updates on my life, even though many of them do not care enough since they really should not. It is impossible to possess over 600 friends, despite the fact a social media profile claims one does. When talking about someone else and what relationship one has with them, a phrase as simple as “Oh yeah, we’re friends” oftentimes translates into, “I have spoken to them three times in the last year, mostly around the topic of borrowing a pencil. But, I am friends with them on Facebook so it counts.” Psychologist, Robin Dunbar argues the highest quantity of friends someone can have at a given time is roughly 150 because anything greater is impossible and unreasonable to maintain. The older idea of a friend allows for individuals to keep track of whom they deem worthy of friendship, whereas in modern society it is more of a free for all and a numbers game.

With the word friend being turned into a rivalry over who has the most “friends” on social media, our competitive nature is exposed. But, this attitude is not that of our primitive instincts to survive, instead, it is traced to our obsession with material goods. In this case, friends themselves are not material goods but the numbers that come with possessing many public network friends give off that feeling in a consumer-driven economy. An economy that has now branched off into the world of interpersonal relations.

This expansion upon the definition of friend exposes how our interconnectedness with others is being distorted more and more as a result of the technological revolution, failing us when it comes to one of the most primal aspects of humanity- relationships. We have lost touch with reality by no longer making friends through face-to-face interaction, instead, it is a result of a “friend request” which performs the task of making a new “friend” for you. This poses a threat to future relationships between individuals because the more disconnected we become from one another the more difficult it will be to go back towards re-establishing true friendships; ones that fit the definition provided by the Oxford English Dictionary rather than the one utilized by Mark Zuckerberg. The sole benefit of social site culture is the ability to express one’s unwillingness to be a friend. A simple “unfriend” gets the message across to the recipient, but once more it takes out the important aspect of interacting. However, a major fault results in people lacking the skills necessary to handle confrontation, by allowing individuals to hide behind their screens.

Not only has the word friend been corrupted, the once noun has been transformed into a verb. Since now it is possible to “friend” someone, and not in the sense of becoming “traditional friends” with them. This meaning is completely separate from the meaning of the word “befriend,” a verb that existed prior to our Internet obsession. Instead, this new definition of the word has to do with the act of adding a contact on a social networking site. At this rate, the definition of contact will soon be altered to fit our infatuation for having as many “friends” as possible. After all, if most of us already have upwards of four hundred “friends” we should just add acquaintances into this never-ending list of individuals who may not even know our last name.