The 'Real Friends' challenge
Do you feel like a lot of your friendships take place online now? It’s where we arrange to meet up, where we establish details, where we apologise for running late or that we can’t make it after all. It’s where we wish people happy birthday, or see their holiday photos and share jokes. Maybe that’s just us, but it feels like the main space everyone interacts is online. I know I’m definitely guilty of messaging my flatmate when she’s in another room to see if she fancies watching a film rather than just knocking on her door, for example. That’s lazy and weird.
P and I realised that over time we’d become increasingly complacent about our friendships. Because it was getting ever easier to connect and talk online, somewhere along the way we stopped making quite so much of an effort to do in person things. We didn’t become shut-ins, but we let Facebook and other networks do most of the talking for us. When we stopped using Facebook recently we both realised that we were going to have to do a lot of work to build friendships back up and get into the habit of keeping up those small, intimate interactions.
So we set ourselves a challenge. We’re going to try and re-affirm or make 10 new friends in the next six months. By that we mean either form good close relationships with people who are sort of warm acquaintances or even strangers at the moment, or put the effort into rebuilding strong, offline friendships with important people in our lives who had become sort of secondary.
OK, admittedly, it sounds a bit creepy and mechanical when we put it like that. But friendships and relationships all need work in some shape or form, and we want to consciously put the work in to give those friendships the space they need to grow. It would be nice if by the end of these six months our social life is not necessarily busier but has moved into the real world again.
How are we going to put this into action? P and I have thought of a list of people that we either don’t know well at all but would like to get to know better, or people who we used to be close to (or still are) but where we feel like our friendships could do with some more conscious effort going in to build them back up again. We’ll connect (or reconnect), go out for drinks or host people at ours, organise a few events and have people round for dinner. We might tell them they’re guinea-pigs in our grand scheme, or, because the aim is to build friendships not scare people away, we might not. But we wanted to really dedicate some time to the people in our live, not their avatars online.
Because I work in the kind of field where I like to have solid ways of measuring success, I think the way we know we’ve done well here will be if by the end of the six months we feel like we have a more vibrant, connected and thriving social life. I consider friendship to be a step beyond the place where you just talk about general topics (like how work’s going, or the weather) and are able to take the risk to talk about more personal, emotional details of life. And the other things. So if we’ve got to the point with even a few of the people on our lists where we’re able to have those conversations and make those connections, I think it will count as a success.
And in the meantime, stand by for pictures of dinner party cooking, cocktail recipes and board game evenings!
How about you? How have you found your friendships affected by social media? Do you have people in your life you feel you might want to reconnect with? Why not drop them an invitation to meet up!