Photo | Amit Kadan
How social media is affecting the closeness of our friendships
Many articles have been written about the illusionary tactics of social media. It has undoubtedly confused our perceptions of the real versus the edited. In contrast to photoshopped magazines, social media seems to represent the everyday lives of ordinary people, an impression that is hard to shake despite our awareness that our online profiles are curated. While it is certainly entertaining to look into the beautiful lives of other people, we also crave realness; since it is so easy to become Facebook friends with people you meet once, close friendships become all the more important. Social media has also caught on to our desire for rawness—Buzzfeed claims to know what “everybody else” thinks or does, offering us yet another chance to compare ourselves. Buzzfeed’s definition of a best friend as the person with whom you share the most intimate and un-photogenic moments, creates a representation of friendship that insists on its own authenticity.
The issue is that representations of rawness are still performative.
I know that it is irrational to believe my score on Buzzfeed’s “How Close Are You and Your Best Friend?” quiz, but I can’t help but feel troubled by how far from the mark I fall. The quiz’s consolatory result tells me, “You guys aren’t the kinds of best friends who’ve seen each other naked, but…” When I look at the characteristics that this relationship is supposed to have, I feel disappointed that none of my friendships fit the bill. However, I also recognize my own discomfort about those kinds of interactions. Is closeness really equivalent to sharing everything in your lives, from secrets to mascara? Maybe, but not necessarily.
In addition, Buzzfeed equates authenticity with being loud and comfortable with sharing private space, thereby dismissing introverts or people who are more reserved. Buzzfeed’s understanding of friendship seems to be a rebuttal of Taylor Swift’s carefully crafted, camera-ready squad—it exaggerates the grittiness of the “real” friendship to differentiate it from an Instagram-worthy (and possibly fake) one. However, this creates yet another type of friendship that is not always representative of different people’s lived experiences. In attempting to include those who do not fit the picture-perfect mold, they have actually created another standard which is, itself, exclusive, and perhaps even more so, because if you don’t fit the Buzzfeed model, you aren’t even “real.”
The media’s portrayals of friendship implicitly shape our culture’s conception of values such as loyalty and generosity, and influences unwritten social contracts and expectations. We doubt ourselves and our relationships not because of a single Buzzfeed article, but, perhaps, because social media bombards us with stylized images of friendship. We live our friendships, but we also broadcast them—we not only watch other people’s performances of friendship, but we also watch our own.
It is not easy to have an intuitive understanding of friendship. Social codes are complex, especially in the context of university. Navigating the social landscape is one of the most challenging aspects of first year; not only do you need to build a new support system, but you also need to deal with friendships that are newly changed by distance. Coming from a small high school to a city, one of my biggest challenges was adjusting to the university’s culture of semi-public space. Both classes and Burwash contain a combination of friends, faces I recognize from somewhere, and total strangers.
Because I have met so many people, I have become more selective with who I call my friends. But because I have met so many people, I have learned so much about life, the world, and myself. I have managed to find deep, meaningful connections, through quiet moments: accidentally sitting for two hours at Ned’s one night talking about our childhoods, trekking through the snow to buy avocadoes at Rabba’s, talking over dinner until the restaurant closed
No picture or post can do justice to moments like that.