Saturday, January 20, 2018

Real-Time Friendships in a Facebook Age

My friend Jorie's birthday in 20-something land
When was the last time you stayed up talking until 3 a.m. with a friend? I'm not talking about wives or husbands or long-lost sisters here, and the REASON I'm not is because that counts as family, which is a really different thing.

Yes, your spouse/sister/brother could be your best friend, and that's wonderful--I'd say the same thing about my husband and mean it--and I feel very lucky that way.

But when it comes to friends, I'm really not sure what I'd say, which is why I'm writing this now.

This week I read an article in the NY Times about friendship that really made me think. Here's what struck me the most:
"A recent study found that the maximum number of social connections for both men and women occurs around the age of 25. But as young adults settle into careers and prioritize romantic relationships, those social circles rapidly shrink and friendships tend to take a back seat."
I started thinking about the play dates I set up for my son when he was younger and how important they were for him, so he could learn how to connect with others and how some would turn into good friends. But those play dates were also for me too, to connect with other moms at a time that potentially could have been very isolating.

We try to teach our kids to make friends, but our own seem to fall by the wayside as work and family responsibilities take over more and more of our lives. But here's another quote from the article I found pretty sobering:
"...Research shows that bonds of friendship are critical to maintaining both physical and emotional health. Not only do strong social ties boost the immune system and increase longevity, but they also decrease the risk of contracting certain chronic illnesses and increase the ability to deal with chronic pain, according to a 2010 report in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.
“In terms of mortality, loneliness is a killer,” said Andrea Bonior, the author of “The Friendship Fix.” 
I've been trying to figure out how much time I spend with friends vs. family, and truthfully, the answer is very little. I did go to a movie with a friend last week, and we went out afterwards for coffee. It felt like the first time in a really long while that I hadn't met someone for a work-related reason--and it was wonderful. But too often I connect with friends on Facebook instead of in real time--and that's not good.

About a week ago my husband, son and I miraculously had dinner with old friends and that too, was great--but again, I haven't done much of anything like this in months. Last month another friend announced he was leaving Facebook and all his social media accounts except Instagram, as he was tired of the political arguments and wanted to connect in real time.

I don't want to leave Facebook, but I can't help but wish for more time off line and less time on social media. Because it's a very poor substitute for staying up and talking until 3 a.m. It's especially hard to get out and see friends in winter, but like the article says, if you can spend hours and hours binge watching TV and on social media... shouldn't you be able to find a couple of hours a month to be with friends?

I want to. Need to. And hope I can, very soon.

Seeing friends Jorie (in hat), Mary Jane (left) and Vay (fron) on Thanksgiving 2016
with my family took some work, but meant the world to me.