A few nights ago I was thinking about friendship in the present and back in the day. With back in the day, I mean for example the 1950s, but also the time I grew up (90’s/early 00’s). It’s interesting to see how things have changed so rapidly in the last couple of years, mainly because of technical innovations. I partly grew up in the oldskool 90s era and also the beginning of the current technology era. Once again you could say: I’ve seen the best of both worlds. These days you see a lot of (funny) viral movies and memes about the influence of the digital era on our social life. So have these digital innovations of the last years effected or influenced (my) friendships?
Nowadays everyone has a smartphone, so distracting yourself by talking to your friends or sharing your deepest darkest secrets are just one app away. In the midcentury of the previous century and even in my high school days, we still had the good old letters that you secretly passed through during class. I recently found some of those letters and even some diaries. Nostalgic moments all over the place. Also very hilarious to go back to your teenage mindset.
Fast forward to a few years later also known as the present. I went from writing letters to digital messages with friends and others of my inner circle. And with messages I don’t mean: “Hey, how you doing?” No, I am talking about long messages, with good news or bad news. Hilarious or not so hilarious. In that sense, there is nothing wrong with a digital inbox if it includes meaningful messages.
Thanks to technology, everyone is just an app away and you can follow anyone you like. It also makes you impatient. Remember the fuss about the introduction of the “person x has seen this” option on Facebook and the blue tick offs on Whatsapp that show when someone has seen your messages? Back in the golden era, you would agree to meet with someone at a certain date and time. You just had to hope that he/she didn’t forget the date, time and when he/she was running late you had two options: Wait or…if you were smart you already made a deal: “If you’re not there in 10 minutes after the time we agreed, I am off”. More importantly meeting up was always face to face, the only technical accessory was the fixed phone at home or a phone booth when you were outside. Not only in the fifties, sixties or seventies, but also in the early 00’s. If you wanted to meet someone on the other side of the world, you had a few options: fly half way around the globe, let that person fly halfway around the globe for a face to face meeting or have a very expensive phone bill….
In the fifties and even up until the nineties, stories of your friends always came alive in a “live” environment. If you had an interesting story to tell your to your friends, they had to wait until they would literally see you face to face or whenever you were available to pick up the phone. And in the times of the fixed phone line, you obviously didn’t reach the right person right awayYou first had to get through the mums, dads, sisters, brothers range before the person you actually wanted to speak to was on the other end of the line. And we all waited (un)patiently.
If we make a jump to the early 00’s, you may remember the o so popular MSN Messenger. I wrote about my journey through social networks lane extensively last year. Slowest internet ever via the dial-up connection (remember that sound?) and only in the weekend. That’s how it all started. It also included some arguing with your brother/sister, because you had to make a serious planning about who was allowed to use the internet first and how long. When you finally passed that, it was time to socialize on MSN Messenger, which often included waiting. A lot of waiting because the person(s) you wanted to talk to was ofcourse not always online. Imagine that in the current digital world…
Nowadays we all have “smarter than smartphones” and the only thing standing between you and the friend you want to call is that good old voicemail when the phone is off. Apping is 24/7 business. If you don’t reply within 24 hours, you have some explaining to do. If you don’t want to call, there are a lot of alternatives. Whatsapp and Messenger allow you to connect and interact with friends wherever and whenever you want it, because we are always online and you can talk any time of the day. However, real friends will never undervalue the worth of good old face to face catchups.
Nowadays we take a lot of pictures and selfies to frame the memories of good times with friends and other people within your inner circle. Around they fifties, the polaroid camera became popular. Which was pretty advanced for those days. It became an innovative (for those years) method to capture good times with others. Around the early 00s, we already had much more advanced cameras, but in that period, it was not very common to take selfies or share pictures with your friends as often as in the current world. For example, I only made pictures during birthdays or other “important” events. More importantly, good times were usually framed as good memories.
Nowadays, you can frame literally every moment if you would like that. Instagram and Facebook are actually based on this mindset. Does this mean that we are superficial? Not necessarily. Social media allows us to share visually framed memories with our friends. However, your instagram or facebook feed is not your life and it’s certainly not an entire reflection of your friendship with others.
Best of both worlds: Sincere friends meet technology
Technology has changed the way we interact and communicate with our friends, family and everyone else who is part of your inner circle. Remember the time when you were sending a SMS? And the time when you had no clue when someone was on or offline? As you can read so many things have changed, but the most important thing hasn’t changed, at least in my social life: sincere friendship. It doesn’t matter where they live, how you’ve met them or how long you’ve known them: if it’s sincere friendship, you will always make time for them whether it’s an app, a face to face catchup, a telephone call, a long message on Facebook Messenger or a good old postcard. I’ve read a lot of (interesting) articles about the believe that social media and technology ruin friendship and social life in general. To me, it’s a matter of perspective. If you think about it, technology should never have a bad influence on your friendship. If it’s real. In fact, it could strengthen your relationships, especially when you’re friends are not living around the corner. Also, if you’re in good company you don’t feel the need to grab your phone every 5 minutes. In fact, you might put your phone away for a few hours, because you know that those hilarious memes, viral movies and the latest news can wait.