I remember when I used to knock on my best friend's door, shouting her name out loud until she appeared at the window, carrying only a boombox blasting the Spice Girls at full volume. That was a long, long time ago.
Once upon a time, there were no mobile phones, let alone Facebook or Whatsapp or even a laptop at the place where I grew up. The internet was a sci-fi sounding concept – we found landline phone calls exciting enough. Kids would meet up spontaneously, giving room to a sense of adventure and surprise that is sadly much missed today. Everything was unspoiled and unplanned and we didn’t yearn for a more advanced method of communication, as far as I can remember.
Before I start slagging off all things social media and how it ruined our lives to an extent, let me tell ya that I do acknowledge one thing: true friends will never succumb to the shallow grave of the feared consequences of constant and instant messaging. The social network will always have an impact on any relationship but I firmly believe that trust, empathy and affection are above any hashtag. I have faith in friendship, maybe because I have always been so lucky in that department.
Sure we live in a world of Facebook freaks and Snapchataholics, but we cannot let ourselves put distance between each other and pretend that personal connection doesn’t need any further maintenance. There’s nothing more meaningful than a smile and a sip of stout in the company of someone who has always been there for you. So, keep it real and refrain from dwelling on emotionally unhealthy online overdrive that will only sabotage a solid friendship that was once pure and pristine, filled with memorable moments and epic antics and summertime polaroids that were never shared or seen by a stranger.
As long as you can balance your priorities, there’s no reason to worry. People shouldn’t stop enjoying their time spent together only because now they can Skype and share their filtered daily life on Instagram for an infinity of eyes to witness. The sad thing is that some of them stop making an effort to get together. To make up for the absence of quality time, they check what their so-called friends are doing by browsing through their shared Insta-moments and wonder why weren’t they invited to this party or why they didn’t tag them in this group photo. Do they have anything to hide? Paranoia and insecurity take over the space where connection once was.
I know it feels tempting to stay home and have a group chat on Whatsapp instead of going out, but make a fucking effort. Phones will outlive people and if that doesn’t make you feel nostalgic for a past without monosyllabic online chats, I strongly suggest you ditch your smartphone for a few days and see how that detox would work for you. Unless you wish to spend the rest of your social life missing out big time, of course. Why follow someone on Instagram if you’re not even able to approach that same person in a pub? Why wouldn’t you have a selfie-free dinner lit by candles instead of smartphone screens and flashes? Why would you prefer to live under the unrealistic illusion that you know someone for what you see shared online rather than experiencing what the person has to offer in real life? Why tell the world secrets you haven’t even shared with your best friend? What is the meaning and worth of life if it’s instagrammed and hashtagged but not lived to the fullest?
Expectations become frustrations built on likes – or the lack of them – and we soon realise it’s a lonely galaxy we live in. This generation is taking friends for granted as long as they are still Facebook Friends – neglecting the true meaning of a friendship as we embrace the practicality of this socially accepted alienation that drives us further apart.
Life is meant to be savoured and remembered for the way it enables us to experience all kinds of feelings and emotions rather than the way other people perceive it. Those snaps taken in that photoautomat in Berlin will always mean more than a smartphone selfie. Those “I miss you” and “I love you” texts will never outpower the heard or spoken words echoing forever in our ears and hearts. The best gig pic can’t be compared to the sound of that beloved bassline live vibrating through your body and invading your eardrums. That digital interaction between old friends should never replace the intimacy of a whispered secret or mutual laughter after hanging out the whole afternoon. And nothing beats the magic of a lively pub where no one is wasting their time on the phone because they are happy having a conversation away from technology and mobile devices – faith in humanity and empathy restored!
I’m not implying that the right thing to do is to delete all social media accounts and retreat to a remote cottage in Donegal. It doesn’t have to be either feast or famine. Just make sure you don’t let all the negativity that comes with this modern world get to you. You don’t want to get caught up in a whirlwind of self-promoting, comparison triggering, aspirational attention seeking followers, even if there’s a million of them.