Thomas Aquinas said: “There is nothing on this Earth more to be prized than true friendship.” One of my friends likes to say: “Girl time is good for the soul.”
I couldn’t agree more with both statements. Yet in an age of social media, friendship may have a more obscure definition. While I’m old enough to understand the difference between a real friend and a Facebook friend, I often wonder about my children’s generation, those who will never know what life was like before Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat.
For better or for worse social media is here to stay, but I have a lot of ambivalence about this method of forming or sustaining friendships. Like many, I enjoy the challenges and conveniences of being socially connected. I love seeing photos of my cousin’s growing, pregnant belly from her home more than 3,000 miles away. I know that with just the swipe of a few screens on my phone, my in-laws in western Pa. can see photos of my children in their Halloween costumes. For business purposes, social media allows me to connect with those I’d like to interview on my radio show, whether they are small business owners, non-profit leaders or working to better the lives of children and families. But I’m also concerned that we, as human beings, are becoming too reliant on this form of communication.
This all hit home for me on a recent Saturday night when some friends gathered at the home of another couple for a traditional dinner party. The festivities began with cocktails and conversations, where the only time we grabbed our cell phones was to take pictures that we shared with each other. We truly connected; we laughed; we toasted to each course. It was a night that made us all feel grateful for the years we’ve spent getting to know each other, in similar face-to-face settings, whether they were runs on the trail, gym workouts together or school events for our children. Likewise, we’ve shared tears during tough moments, understanding that friendship helps heal deep wounds.
Looking back to 2008 when I first became an at-home mother, I became president of the Coatesville Chapter of the MOMS Club. Enjoying my new role, I often hosted play hours, where moms and their children would congregate during the mid-morning hours for some socializing and snacks. At one such event, a few moms asked me why I wasn’t on Facebook. I told them I’d much rather meet my friends for coffee instead of chatting online. At their urging, however, I reluctantly took the plunge into the social media world.
I have no regrets. For those of you who follow my web site and social media posts, you know that I’m on Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. I’ve recorded YouTube videos and have a Periscope account. A friend from high school who’s achieved great success in this medium recently became the president of a new video streaming service, StreamUp. He’s giving me VIP access. I can’t turn that down, right?
With all of these facts true, I remind my children that being in the company of friends and family is irreplaceable. I teach them the values of firm handshakes, warm hugs and making direct eye contact with others. I want them to know that their father and I started our relationship talking over meals, not texting or chatting online. We formed our incredible bond the only way friends can really do so, by spending time together. So while we may live in a world that emphasizes instantaneity and accessibility, this is not the way true friendships form or thrive.