We are living in a connection driven world. Every day it seems technology is advancing to help us better stay in touch with those we love. The upside of this is that those High School reunions are way less awkward now that we can deal with all the drama before we ever get there. The downside is a generation is arising that doesn’t always know the difference between “real” and “fake” relationships.
There are different types of relationships. As a nation we once took this to heart. A person with common interests who you felt safe enough to share your secrets with was a close friend. The guy you make small talk with while waiting at the dentist’s office was not. Now since we can go home and follow dentist guy on Twitter, we don’t always know how to define him.
Today’s teens are the first generation to never recall a time when they could not connect to someone via technology. They are used to having access to people at any time in any format. We can learn about them through pictures, videos, and 160 written characters or less. It can give us the illusion that we know someone just because we know some information about them.
Sociologists use the term, “social ties” to explain the way are truly connected to a person. How strong a tie is between any two people depends on the amount of time spent together, the emotional connection, the level of closeness and (I like this one) the reality of how reciprocal the relationship is.
They claim there are three types of social ties we can have with someone. I think it is vital to start teaching our students the truth about these different types of connections.
These are “acquaintances” or people we interact with but are not emotionally attached to. This is the person we see everyday in the hallway and say.”Hi” to but that’s it. We follow them on social media because we met them once. We might see a lot about their lives, but don’t really have anything to do with them.
These are the relationships that are most important to us. These are people we share our lives with, and who share their lives with us. Some would say this could never happen via social media. Personally, I would contend there needs to be some times when you truly interact with these people in person, or face to face in some way. However, with Skype or a good old-fashioned telephone, we can have long distance friendships pretty easily. What’s important in these ties is that you are going deep and that the connection is not one-sided.
These may go slightly deeper than just watching someone on Instagram, but they aren’t the people we will share our inner most desires with either. This is where many of our social media interactions lie. They are somewhere between an acquaintance and a true friend.
When we don’t know the difference between these types of relationships we can get confused. We follow someone on our social media of choice and maybe have some witty interactions. We don’t know what to call this person. Are they a friend or an acquaintance? We can navigate this in person, now to learn it online.
Various scientists keep studying the effects of our new way of connecting via technology. The common find is that the deepest intrinsic longing of people is for quality over quantity of relationships. Personally, I think that started way back in the Garden when we knew what it was like to walk and talk with God. He created two at the beginning not a mass mob. It speaks to the very depth of our soul’s need in so many ways.
We need to understand safety in building relationships online as well. Is there someone we shouldn’t be talking to? Don’t tell your students talking online to friends is evil.
What’s vital is to understand the level of truth those people hold in our lives. There needs to be a way of building a safe relationship that is not a manufactured version of ourselves. It’s funny, but we have to teach our students how to make friends in this new world.
– Leneita / @leneitafix
Need help navigating social media with students and in your ministry? Check out the Social Media Guide for Ministry by Nils Smith!!