“The private wound is deepest. O, time most accursed, ’Mongst all foes that a friend should be the worst!”
— Shakespeare in The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Friendships enrich the quality of a person’s life in many ways that one cannot imagine. Good friends teach one about oneself and challenge a person to be better and more efficient. They encourage to keep going during the hard times and celebrate success with one another.
Friends do a lot more than give you a shoulder to cry on; they also have a positive impact on your health and mental wellbeing. Research has shown that friendships are just as important to your well-being as eating right and exercising.
Teenagers find it much easier to develop a friendship through the internet. It speeds up the normal process of sharing information, interacting and moreover forming a bond. Teens usually have a tendency that even after meeting someone once in real life, they will usually progress the bond online before meeting again. They say this practice stops things between them from being awkward. The internet provides the opportunity to create familiarity and intimacy in a friendship quickly, but at the same time, there is the security of the BLOCK button if things go south.
Despite having their place, online or social media friendships don’t provide kids with the social, emotional, or even physical learning and development that they need and doesn’t take them out of their comfort zone. Every moment that a child is socialising on the internet is a moment where they are not engaging with the real-world relationships that will prepare them for adult hood.
An online friendship doesn’t offer people the opportunity to have experiences together that form bonds. If they aren’t doing things that the regular teenagers or adults would do in real life they aren’t seeing each other in a range of contexts and with a range of people. They aren’t building the skills that go with changing social dynamics and situations that would prepare them for adluthood.
Online friends don’t see eachother fall over in the corridor at school. So, they don’t have the opportunity to help them up and then laugh it off with one another. Those experiences create connection and trust among eachother. Instead, online friends see a fairly well-crafted version of you in a situation that is largely static and controllable through texts and memes.
Online friendships have a place, but we need to be encouraging kids and adults to be developing and fostering their friendships in the world without the internet. They are the relationships that build the network of connection that is needed for positive mental wellbeing. They are the people our kids are growing and developing with, and side by side they will find their place in the world.