It is ironic that the very technologies created to keep people connected, such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype, are actually helping to alienate us from one another. These days the word friend is tossed around lightly. Children often do not even have to leave their rooms to stay connected to one another. As a result, many are lacking the emotional bonds that were created through friendship in the past. Overall, social networking is interrupting the ability for people to develop and maintain genuine relationships.
When I was young, children used to be anxious to get outside to see, play and socialize with their friends. Whether they played tag, dodge ball, or just chatted at the schoolyard, they enjoyed their time together. Previously, each child had a best friend with whom they would spend most of their time. These friends hung out regularly and enjoyed each others company. They shared experiences by spending time at one another’s homes. They would have sleepovers; do homework, and share meals as well as secrets, goals and dreams. This time together helped friends get to know each other on a personal level. In addition, it helped them learn to read facial expressions and body language, as well as develop empathy.
In contrast, today’s youth are missing out on such experiences and as a result, the quality of their interactions is diminishing. They are lacking intimacy as well as the emotional give and take of good old face-to-face time. Long gone are the days when calling someone “friend” meant a relationship was shared that had formed over a period of time. Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Skype are changing the very nature of our youth’s friendships as well as affecting how they connect within those relationships. Many of today’s youth have hundreds of friends on social networking sites. Nowadays, after reading your profile or even just seeing your picture, people are ready to add you as a friend. Whether you talk to them regularly, care about what they are up to, or have any interest in them whatsoever, they are still listed as friends within the social network community. However, the reality is that they may have a few real friends, and the rest of them are just people they have met perhaps once or twice. Presently, a text message is the first option when having to converse with someone.
From using cell phones and computers youths are extremely adept at technical skills. Nonetheless, they have difficulty connecting with others on a more personal level. Having children get more involved with after school activities such as sports, music, theatre or clubs would allow them to engage in some much needed human contact. This would also enable them to escape from behind their computers, cell phones and video games for a while.