In the December 11th edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education Review, the cover story was entitled “Faux Friendship: Networked with everyone, we no longer know how to connect with anyone”. The author, William Deresiewicz, refers to Facebook by asking, “If we have 768 “friends,” in what sense do we have any?” Have you ever had the experience of spending time with someone who is busy texting someone else? I know I have done exactly that, and while I love being in touch with my children or friends so easily, I do wonder if it comes at the cost of being fully present with the person in my presence. The article gives a history of the concept of friendship and describes how human beings have gone from having a handful of deep friendships to many more friendships that by definition cannot be as strong. He discusses the role of technology and a culture that has become more egalitarian over time as the sources of that change. He says, “We have ceased to believe that a friend’s highest purpose is to summon us to the good by offering moral advice and correction. We practice, instead, the nonjudgmental friendship of unconditional acceptance and support…. We’re busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free.” Interesting food for thought.
What does this mean for our children? What models do we want them to have for friendship? Certainly, they are watching television shows that may not set the examples we would choose. I would encourage you to have conversations with your children about friendship and their understanding of it from an early age. The model will change for them as they grow from being someone who wants to dig in the dirt with them to someone who is willing to listen to them. Since many of us as adults rely heavily on friends to be a sympathetic ear or an objective perspective, we should help our children know how to be such a friend or how to identify someone to fill that role in their lives. While we may not be up to date on the latest technologies, we do have a great deal to teach them about friendships and their importance in our lives.