T(w)eens new to Facebook and other social media sites are quick to accept friend requests so they can keep up with their classmates. But how meaningful are the relationships they are mapping out on Facebook? Some observers argue that social media is blurring the definition of friendship. T(w)eens are the most susceptible to these fuzzy lines around friendship.
Last year South Park tackled some heavy issues relating to social media with humor and just enough insight to make you think twice before sending out your next friend request.
Evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar, wrote in the London Times that “our brains aren’t big enough to allow us to have deeply meaningful relationships with more than a handful of people.” Dunbar added that most people couldn’t handle more than 150 friends (or acquaintances) in real life since that is “the average number of people to whom most of you send Christmas cards.”
What is a Facebook friend? Should you “friend” only those who are true friends? Are these people whom you “can have a relationship with involving trust and obligation,” where “there’s some personal history, not just names and numbers,” as Dunbar defined it?
An entire generation growing up with a broader definition of friendship will likely impact how they navigate friendship as adults. Defriending will quickly become necessary as they manage both their social media self and their real life.
Social media introduces another aspect, which is not all bad. Today, friendships need not be limited by geography. T(w)eens can easily keep in touch with any acquaintance or “friend” they made on winter vacation or at soccer camp. They can also keep in touch with friends if they move to another state. That can help t(w)eens hang on to some old friends as they get acclimated to a new school setting.
Keep your chin up Kyle. Remember the words of Aristotle: “A friend to all is a friend to none.”