Monday, February 26, 2024

The Changing Face of Friendship

Some of us have long forgotten what life was like before the mass of technological communication devices we use today. Therefore, those of us who are just old enough to know both sides of the communications-coin may be best positioned to assess the social and mental effects of computerized communications.
Before and even during the 90s, we kept a close circle of friends, contacting each other through telephone landlines. Friendships, get-togethers and first dates were arranged with ritual formality.
Then text messaging and social networking became prevalent and communications took on a whole new ethos.
Instead of a close group of friends whose telephone numbers we’d know off-by-heart like birthdays, we came to gather large groups of acquaintances. By spreading our friendship net we can offer numbers and email addresses to people who’d never ring, but might send a casual message.
Now casual communications are the order of the day, whether they are directed at us individually or at the social networking world as a whole through ‘status updates’.
In an age where we’re grasping for identity, platforms like Facebook allow us to perform. It can be a swamp of ego as much as a place for the productive exchange of ideas. Rarely are the people we enact in cyberspace our real selves, confusing us even further about who we really are and what is “authentic”. An article from Endsleigh suggests that, “social networking has desensitized our emotions to an extent where we simply play up to them” drawn into a hollow culture of laughing along yet feeling nothing. Many of us are now open access; emotions and thoughts laid bare in a way that would have been considered shameful or at least indiscreet in the past.
On the whole ‘communication saturation’ must bring further understanding and tolerance. Many political atrocities committed in the past may not have occurred had people better understood the nature of one another. As a force for change, many political commentators saw the Arab Spring and the election of Obama as having strong foundations in social media.
One major difficulty, is finding anything valuable amongst the tumult of petty chitchat. Have we just added a layer of communicational bureaucracy rather than encouraging productive and genuinely pointed correspondence.
Perhaps we’ve built careers out of answering emails and endless memos, instead of limiting these devices to where they’re most appropriate.
We need to cut through the sound and the fury and develop ways of making communications more productive in an intellectual sense. Maybe in ten years we’ll look back cringingly at how we bared our souls at the beginning of the communications revolution, or alternatively we may be further living in the spirit of digital openness.


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