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Feeling Lonely Sometimes….

Do you have lots of friends online, but still feel lonely?

Today, when we consider how people run their social lives, we are most likely to discover that the key word is Facebook. This refers to the most popular online social network, used by hundreds of millions of people across the world. For some, it is an supplementary channel through which to communicate with their old offline friends; for others it is the main and sometimes the only social channel for social interaction. The latter group are likely to have many friends whom they met on the net and with whom they interact exclusively online and will never meet face to face. For this group especially, Facebook has changed the meaning of several basic concepts such as friendship, intimacy and privacy.

In terms of friendship, users tend to believe that Faceook gives them clear indicators as to their social status. Such an indicator is, for example the LIKE, (or lack of it) or the number of friends they have listed. For many this appears to be a wonderfully objective criterion to understand their social status, namely, you have many friends and you receive a lot of LIKEs to your posts, so you know that you are doing well socially. The idea of summarizing a complicated concept such as degree of friendship in such easy terms seems very attractive, the problem is that while this may be objective measurement, it is not an objective measurement of friendship. In many cases, there is a temptation to replace the traditional idea of quality of friendship with a new quantitative one. However this new definition does not actually characterize friendship, since it is easy to accumulate a lot of Facebook friends, but many of these may only be acquaintances or even people met at a party and never seen again or people known only online . When this is the case the simple statistics have become more important than the actual relationship and the gap between this a true friendship is vast.

A real friend knows you very well and is there when you need him/her; real friends allow and encourage each other to develop; they allow you to be yourself and they listen to and keep your secrets. Questions that need to be asked are :How many of your friends on Facebook fit this description, and how many are just superficial internet buddies with whom you exchange likes? Frequently the answer is not many are true friends. This is especially the case if they are online friends, the sort that never meet offline and with whom there is no offline background.

Friendship that is solely online has a unique component, in that there is a feeling that this friendship has to be constantly re-earned. For example, every time we put up a new post on Facebook, we experiences a somewhat neurotic feeling, will they (our friends) like it? Will they support us with a like and maybe even write something in support or maybe share our ideas with their friends? This feeling is troubling and does not resemble the security and confidence we feel in an offline friendship. People online frequently feel such pressure that they have created a whole range of techniques to attempt to ensure that their social status online will be enhanced. These include such measures as putting up a post only at the right time of the day when their friends are likely to be online or even asking people to support them with a like and promising that friend a like in return.

Facebook can easily create the illusion that all is hunky-dory in in my social life, although this may well not be the case. Being a real friend may be very demanding especially when your friend needs your help support or guidance. On the Internet this is far less likely to happen. This may lead us to wish to remain a virtual friend, after all it is far less hassle, but then what of the benefits that we are missing out on…

You can learn more about friendship from this viral movie that used is partly based on one of my papers:

http://anthillonline.com/the-innovation-of-loneliness-or-why-social-med…

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