Recently I was listening to a podcast and heard this, “75 percent of women say that they want better friendships. 75 percent of us are disappointed with the friendships we have and we don’t feel as close to the friends we want.”
In our socially connected world, it seems unlikely that so many women out there are feeling lost, lonely, and unsatisfied with the level of friendship in their life. Or does it? When I really started thinking about the friendships in my life, it made me start to wonder if social media is creating a false sense of friendship and belonging that is missing the deep level of friendship we find truly satisfying.
According to author Shasta Nelson in her book Frientimacy, satisfying friendships are founded on three things: positivity, consistency, and vulnerability. When we are in relationships that make us feel good about ourselves, that make us feel safe to share our most vulnerable and tender parts, and that we can rely on as a consistent part of our life, we have found true and satisfying friendship. Why are so many of us missing out on this? What have social media sites like Facebook and Instagram done to our level of friendship?
When I have those rare moments when I can sit down and have coffee with a friend, I know who I want to call. I want to spend time with the friends who lift me up, encourage me, laugh with me, and make me feel awesome about myself. I’m sure you do too! Unfortunately, there are many times when a conversation or girls night out can leave us feeling emotionally exhausted, frustrated, or like we just don’t measure up. It seems that in this world of social media and Pinterest, we are often caught in the comparison trap. We look to the next life event or vacation or milestone that instead of living in the present. And because we often do not feel satisfied with what we have, we complain and whine to each other. Instead of being lifted up and encouraged, we spend our time comparing and complaining.
Add social media to the mix, and it gets even worse! It is so easy to see pictures from our neighbor’s European vacation and complain about the fact that we cannot afford to take one. We know when our friends’ kids score soccer goals and feel bad that ours didn’t. Our kid is up half the night, and when we Instagram our tired face with #momlife we get all kinds of unsolicited sleep advice that makes us feel like we must be doing something wrong.
As busy moms, this is probably the hardest of the three to achieve. As my children have grown, I noticed that my friend circles changed along with them. Families we spent time with during the preschool years, even when we really enjoyed each other’s company, drifted to the wayside when our kids went to different elementary schools. It wasn’t a conscious decision to no longer spend time together. It’s just that our friendship was based primarily on consistency. We saw each other at playdates or preschool drop off, and when those things no longer happened we no longer had the opportunity to invest in each other.
But we’re still Facebook friends! Doesn’t that count for something? Well to be honest, in relation to consistency I think it can both help and hurt. For those friendships that were based only on consistency, Facebook does allow you to keep up with life events and not be completely cut off from those friendships. But, I think it also creates an additional problem. If what we really want and need as women is to connect on a deep level of friendship, social media is robbing us of that chance. Scrolling through everyone’s “highlight reel” and clicking like creates an artificial sense of connection. We see the edited version of each other’s lives – and as a result no one is actually truly seen. And that’s really what we want! To be truly seen and loved anyway.
In addition, achieving consistency takes time and effort. The time you spend scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feeds could be used instead to send an encouraging text, make a quick phone call to a friend in need, or even drop a note in the mail. Rather than passively reading about the lives of those around us, we can actively deepen our relationships with them!
How many times have you answered the question “How are you?” with a “Fine” even though inside you are trying not to cry? I’m pretty sure we all have. No one really likes being vulnerable. It’s scary to admit your fears, shortcomings, frustrations, or that you have no idea how to do something! To be able to feel safe enough with a friend to be vulnerable, you must have a deep level of friendship. And when you find friends who love you through the tough stuff, do not let them go!
It can seem rare to find a friend like this, but I really don’t think it has to be. I think social media has tricked us into thinking that everyone else is perfect and therefore we must be too. When all we see is an edited version of a friend’s life, then all we share is the edited version of ours. And even if we do decide to share something from our heart, it is a one-sided connection. We are not receiving anyone’s trust or vulnerability in return. Social media interactions remain on a superficial level and do not enable us to dig deep and be vulnerable with each other.
So What Do We Do About It?
I am a social media user, and I definitely agree that there are many benefits to it. We have the ability to network and connect in ways that we never did before. It’s easy to sell things, get recommendations for services, read helpful blog posts ;o) and keep tabs on people from other seasons of life. Where I think we get into trouble is when we allow social media to be a replacement for true, satisfying friendship. Please do not make that mistake. Don’t allow likes on a photo to substitute for encouraging words from a friend. Don’t spend the free time you have looking at everyone else’s highlight reel and neglect to actually connect with someone. And don’t allow the perceived perfection of social media prevent you from sharing your heart over coffee. Take time to invest in your actual friends, not in their social media profiles. With some intention and effort, we can all have those deeply satisfying friendships we desire.
Here are some great resources on friendship that have impacted me.
- Frientimacy by Shasta Nelson
- Friendships Don’t Just Happen by Shasta Nelson
- Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist
- Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
- For the Love of Girlfriends Podcast by Jen Hatmaker