Long ago, when I was a nipper living in Leeds, the only way I knew how to contact my best friend Stephen was to run across the road and knock on his door and ask if he was coming out to play. It seemed so simple looking back now.
I wonder how different my life would have been if I had grown up with the blanket of social networking that dominates today’s youth. In many ways I’m grateful that my childhood was unaware of such inventions. The practice of door knocking was as common as climbing trees and going out on ‘Goonies’ style adventures.
These days though social networks appear to put huge amounts of pressure on today’s youth. Whilst the inevitable onslaught of cyber bullying is plain to see, I don’t think people like Mr Zuckerberg quite forsaw the impact social networking would have on our lives – positve and negative. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of sites like Facebook; they’ve allowed me to contact friends I’ve not heard from in over twenty years, and allow me to get closer to family members who I can’t see often enough. One example of this is how I got to know my amazing late Uncle Mark. Although he passed away sadly last year, I was grateful that I got to speak to him more through Facebook in one year than I had during my entire life.
But there is also the bad side to social networking. People can see where you are, where you’ve been, and what you’ve been doing. If you’re a slave to the social network, then your entire life is up for scrutiny. And there in lies the rub. Just one badly worded status, one picture with a certain person, one ‘check-in’ at the wrong place, can spell trouble in your circles. And this follows on to the fabled act of ‘unfriending’ which can cause wars amongst groups. Let’s face it, deleting a person from your friend’s list speaks volumes, whatever the reasons. It silently tells somebody that you no longer care about them enough to have them in your life. Of course this may not be the case at all, but human nature is one that usually imagines the worst. And depending on the individual’s disposition, they can either become hurt, resentful, unmoved, or just plain pissed off.
Personally I don’t see why anyone would feel they have to delete anyone without a proper reason. ‘Cleaning up’ your friends list is not a valid reason. You can easily hide people without causing anamosity so why cause drama?
If you don’t speak to these people anymore, so what? I have plenty of friends I don’t speak to much, that’s the way life is. Friends come and go, they drift in and out, but we never forget them. If a person speaks to me after years and years I’ll still be their friend, no matter what. I don’t see why we need to devote huge amounts of time to message everyone we know just to prove that we’re still mates. It’s like juggling with a few hundreds balls, it’s just not possible.
Having a considerate approach to social media begins to make friendships almost business like. Watching somebody constantly put negative statuses about their life puts a label on them. They may be just using social media to vocalise some stress but if that’s all you see of that person, you can’t help but get a solid opinion of that person.
I can’t help but wonder how social media will evolve in the future, shaping our friendships and lives. We complain that the government wants too much information about us, but we will freely give it away more and more through social networking. Our peers will also know everything about us, down what cereal we ate for breakfast (if you don’t announce that already). Reviews of individuals could become the norm – it already happens in Twitter – ‘Add this person, they’re really funny!’
For now though, I’m grateful that Facebook came about when I was in my twenties – probably the best age for it.
I’m also grateful that I can check up on my old pal Stephen, living happily in Australia. Even though we rarely speak, I still consider him one of my longest serving best friends, and one day I’ll go knock on his door and see if he’s coming out to play (at the pub).