Passive friendships online

Between the era of letter-writing and social media, friendship was based on various forms of communication, such as telephone and meeting up. With the arrival and implementation of social media, we have now gone from two-way communication to broadcasting. We post pictures of what we do and where we are and we do stories to let people know what is happening and this is done through projecting a mood that we want to let people know that we’re in. People can then comment on these, but the majority will either just see it, or like it with an appropriate emoji. The broadcaster can see who has seen their stories, and depending on continuity in visiting the app or even worse, having notifications for every little thing, mentally make a temporal mark on who seem to have received the post. This press release kind of communication can also be news on relationship status or letting people know that their cat died or they had a baby.

If you as the viewer take it so far as to write a comment on Facebook, you will first have to decide whether you really want constant notifications from others who are also commenting. if I get a notification, I want it to be about me. If I have the number 8 in notifications on Facebook, some will be about whose birthday it is today, which event your friend are going to or which of your comments other people have liked. What you’re really looking for is the notification that is about you.

If I put up stuff on the Internet and my friend sees that, and the my friend puts up stuff on the Internet and I see that, then we are both up to speed with what is happening in each-other’s lives. Before social media, this often required meeting up to tell about, or at least spend a few minutes, a half hour or more on the phone. But now, we have taken out the direct communication and replaced it with constant press releases.

This friendship becomes passive when you replace the direct communication for just posting. I have friends from high school that I follow on Instagram, that I have not interacted directly with since 1998. Has social media become the new phone book, or have we not set what the friendship is? But there’s another spectrum to this. The friends you have in other countries, or that you got to know through social media do not have the same agreed foundation for preserving friendship. Here, the posts actually become a necessity to maintain the relationship. Then, every now and then it is spiced with a Skype call or a DM.

Did we stop talking on the phone because then we could no longer see incoming notifications from others, or have we truly started the transition from an oral based society to a text-based one? Will people become more open online, but more reserved in person? We keep people passively as “friends” or “follows” and you almost have to make a decision of when you are not friends anymore. Before social media, there would be tension between people if you had not spoken for a few weeks, or months. You would drift apart. But now, we are always there, in the feed, living our lives apart from each other, but still with a view into our lives.

It’s a strange thing, but probably only because I grew up with something else. For those who grew up with social media, this is the only normal they know. But they will also eventually experience a change, and I hope they also start asking themselves questions like I do.

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