Social Media: Killing Friendships, Or Building Stronger Bonds?

You’ve probably seen videos or graphics showing the breakdown of socialization due to everyone looking at their smartphones constantly, or spending far too much time on social media. People crying out and spreading the word that social media, despite containing the word social, has destroyed interaction with our friends, families, and others around us. The campaigns that are out there to encourage Internet users to turn off their phones, shutdown their laptops, and other devices that connect us to the virtual world, are out there, but so often not listened to and falling on deaf ears. Little do these activists, if you can call them that, know that they’re the ones being left behind with a 20th century mindset in a 21st century world.

Taking a quick look back 15-20 years ago, kids used to be on the playgrounds, playing basketball at the park, or catch with a small group of friends. They’d have face-to-face conversations with each other, and if they were home, they’d call their friends on the home phone and schedule a get-together. Those were the days right? Maybe not so much.

In today’s world, what is going on? Kids are still playing basketball, baseball, and other sports, but not on their own, they’re usually part of a league (AAU, Little League, Pop Warner). Their friendships arise by playing on the field or court together, not because they live in the same neighborhood. When they’re home, they’re texting, Skyping, and FaceTiming each other constantly. But what about the kids, or even adults who didn’t join an official group that their parents or themselves signed up for, how are they still maintaining and growing friendships? Social media.

Car enthusiasts are joining Facebook groups, commenting on car magazine statuses, posting videos on Youtube that are reaching like-minded individuals, and sharing photos on Instagram that attract others who have the same interest. Through these resources, car meets such as Cars and Coffee have been created to bring an entire community of car enthusiasts together, and these car owners from all over the region likely had an online friendship prior to meeting face-to-face.

Their bond has been created by a common interest. This group is made up of people who probably don’t get along with others in their neighborhood, or go to school with a class that has no interest in cars. Instead of being left out, this group can meet on the weekends, chat on social media, and text each other. Friendships are no longer decided by geography or what school or neighborhood you live in. These people could live 50 miles away from each other, but will meet in the middle on weekends because of that friendship and mutual interest in cars.

Relationships are another aspect that people believe social media is getting in the way of, but is it really? Take a look at your friends and the relationships they are in with their significant other. They appear to have the exact same interests, doing activities together as if they were best fiends. Social media and their smartphones aren’t getting in the way of their relationship, and if they are, then are those two compatible? If not, that’s when the Internet and smartphones begin to dominate.

What we are seeing is the death of the traditional friendship, but the creation of a brother and sisterhood. Celtics fans are getting to know each other on Twitter, after a while of chatting on social media, they’re now meeting up before, during, and after games, and sharing that common fan-hood, creating a fan base that’s much closer than in previous generations. Instead of 18,000 Celtics fans who’ve never met before going to a game, there are now cliques and groups in each section who do in fact know each other. The fan experience has now become a bond and friendship, and not a collection of Bostonians watching their favorite team in the TD Garden.

The people and Facebook users who are complaining about the end of face-to-face interactions and loss of friendships, are now the victims of being last in their social network to realize where we’re heading as a society and how we interact with each other. People desire a friendship that shares mutual interest on a number of levels. Just because you go to the same school, work in the same office, or live in the same neighborhood, doesn’t mean you’re that great of friends. There needs to be more in common than that, and car enthusiasts, Celtics fans, and any other large group of hobbyists have seen that, and they’re joining other lilk-minded people.

As I said before, the only ones complaining about the “over-usage” of social media and smartphones are the last people to know and interact with people who share their same interest. In reality this isn’t anything new to mankind. All this really is are fraternity/sorority, after school programs, and sports leagues on a much grander scale that are being established via social media. Stronger bonds are being created, while the last remaining link is all alone waiting to assimilate with a group of friends who share the same passion towards a hobby.

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