introvert · special needs parenting

Has Social Media Changed The Meaning of The Word “Friend”?

I’ve always kept a tiny circle of friends. When I was younger I felt insecure about my relative unpopularity. It seems I’m somewhat of an acquired taste.

Add to that a family with complicated needs and working at home, and if I get out with a friend a few times a year I’m lucky.

If you look at my Facebook, though, it’s a whole different story. I have a hundred or so friends that I encountered through an adoption related discussion board about 12 years ago. I’ve actually met fewer than half of them, but I consider every one of them good friends, and some quite close.

Then I have a broad group of people who have some kind of connection to Down syndrome, special needs pare ting, or some type of disabilities with whom I’ve connected over the years. And, of course, childhood cancer connections.

Throw in people from high school and a few jobs, and my latest additions of fellow writers, and my list of Facebook friends belies my claim to be an introvert.

The funny thing is, with rare exception, I feel like I know these people well. In fact, when I have met the people with whom I’ve developed online friendships, the transition has been seamless.

Maybe this means that I spend too much time surfing social media, and I won’t argue that. I will say, though, that for the socially anxious introvert, the advent of socializing through my phone screen has been revolutionary.

Even before social media came along I demurred when invited to any gathering. If it is a large group or there’s alcohol involved, there’s not much chance of me attending a get together.

But now, especially through groups and private messaging, I am able to have meaningful discussions, connect with like minds, and enjoy a form of interaction that enriches my life without finding a non-existent babysitter or using up my energy on tedious small talk.

While many find social media a simple distraction or time killer, I suspect that many, like me, find a way to fill a void that had previously been insurmountable, and do so unapologetically.

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5 thoughts on “Has Social Media Changed The Meaning of The Word “Friend”?

  1. I’m struggling to find my place in the world at large after many very big changes in my life. Moved to a new town where we know 0 people, quit my job to stay home with the kids and write…my world has shrunk considerably and I’m finding it beyond difficult to make real life friends. If I didn’t have my online friends I think I’d lose my ever loving mind at this point lol.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I relocated to GR in 2010 and it still doesn’t feel right to me. Everyone I know is categorized into one of three spots “Work” “Literal Family” or “Support Group”. I have two non-family friends that are both “support group” tangential. I put so much time and energy into all of the other places I’ve lived that I just don’t have it in me anymore to start cultivating a local group of friends again. Instead, I make the drive to my old friends.

    Liked by 1 person

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