My best friend and I have only ever taken one photo together.
She’s not the first one to like or comment on all of my posts. There are no long, public proclamations about our admiration for one another. Our texting isn’t 24/7. In fact, sometimes, when life gets the best of us, there are days of complete silence. (I don’t even think she’s checked Facebook since we met. Just kidding.)
But yet, my friendship with her is one of the strongest I have ever had. She is the one I know I can call if I really need someone, the one who will let me crash at her place if I am feeling lonely and overwhelmed, and the one I can be my authentic self with in a way I have never experienced. I trust our friendship for what it is, not what social media tries to convince me it is not, and we spend more time actually being friends than trying to prove to social media that we are.
I never realized it before, but that is an empowering position to be in.
Don’t get me wrong, I have huge anxieties when it comes to social media and friendship. Somehow I have developed an irrational fear that if there’s too much “blue” on the screen – meaning that I have “over-texted” – the friendship will end, which is crazy, now that I think about it.
I’ve had friendships fall apart over things that have happened over text, which, looking back, is something I can’t wrap my brain around. Literally.
How is your brain supposed to process something happening when all that changed was a few typed words and hitting send?
We have five senses but yet the for the majority of our precious, formative years, we use absolutely none of them. Almost everything we see and “experience” is witnessed through a third-party – namely, a screen. So many of my memories aren’t actually memories; they are text messages. When I think about my relationships with some people, all I see is text messages in my head.
Isn’t that scary?
Being close friends with someone who is not a big social media person – and who values our in-person relationship over what happens behind the screen – has truly transformed my perspective on friendships in the digital age. It has challenged my anxieties, forced me to slow down, breathe, and realize that we are more than okay, even when we are not in constant contact.
Our memories together are of beach days, coffee dates, and simply hanging out and talking. Our memories are not what she texted me on Saturday, September 9th at 2:11pm or a Snapchat streak that lasted a month. We have no pictures to back our memories up, but I see them more vividly than anything I have ever recorded on social media.
Ultimately, being friends with her has taught me that the strength of a friendship has nothing to do with the amount of memes a person tags you in, the number of “appreciation posts”, or the number of times you are left on “read”.
If that is where your sense of security in a relationship currently comes from, it is time to self-reflect. Friendship is about unconditional love and acceptance, and true friends are people who can handle you when you are completely unfiltered. In real life. Period.
Think about it. If a friendship could really end over the amount of words on a screen, how strong could that friendship have been to begin with? We need to stop buying into the perceived significance of social media, especially when it comes to friendship.
What I’m about to say is going to sound incredibly cliche, but we really need to stop brushing this conversation off, because we are all affected by it in more ways than we know. We live in a society where we expect constant communication with – and attention from – others. It’s a world where every action can be misconstrued, where double texting is shunned and labeled as “too clingy”, where no texting at all is seen as “not caring”, where every second of every day is recorded on Snapchat. It’s a world where we don’t even know why we do these things, but we feel like we have to anyway.
The conditioning of social media cannot be undone overnight, and I don’t have the answers. After I write this article, I will post it on my social media platforms, which feels hypocritical, but it is simply the world we live in. I can’t control that, and there are some benefits to it, such as getting to connect with the people I love around the world regularly.
I don’t know what the future holds, but for now, all I can do is wake up every day, work on my relationship with myself, and hope that the digital world affects me a little less than it did the day before. In many ways, I am thankful for social media. It is a tool with allows me to connect with the people in my life, but it is NOT holding my friendships together.
I refuse to fall prey to that illusion.