Warning: Spicy words ahead. Read only when feeling ready for a friendly little uppercut from your old pal Justin.
In my twenty-first century American context, it seems to me true bonds of friendship are more and more easily dissolved. Oh sure, everyone has friends, as in 814 acquaintances on Facebook, 1,298 followers on Twitter, a few pals for going out to the movies or a bar on the weekend… but how many of those people can you call and trust they will really listen to you when you need them?
One study published at least 3 years ago shows 25% of Americans are lonely, or rather they have no one they can truly trust and lean on in times of need. How could this be so in an age of hyper-connectivity?
I know in my personal experience there are many who act as friends in many circumstances, but in short time they end up distant and senseless to our relationship. I’ve been that person many times to others. One symptom of this which I’m sure you can understand is what I call “Phone Phace.”
We were having a conversation a moment ago, you were looking at me, and then I noticed a strange blue glow under your chin, your eyes glazed over… did someone slip you some extra sleepy-medicine today?
Have you been that person? You defer to your smart-phone when you have real people talking to you right in front of you – and let me be the first to tell it to you straight: you’re giving the world the finger.
You’re probably a bad friend, or even a non-friend if you’re the type of person who lives in cyber-reality friendships but can’t complete a 4-minute face to face (not facetime!) conversation with someone without checking your life-in-a-box smartphone screen. How’s that hitcha?
Friendship and empathy are the building blocks of society, and we are all in need of people to truly care for us - from the day we are born… but in our present world, it seems the bonds of friendship are dissolving before our eyes.
Think about this: if right now you felt like you needed to bare a particularly dark, scary part of your inner life, would there be 1, 2, maybe 3 people you could truly trust to do that? Many of us would have to say “no”.
I challenge each of you to make the world a better place. Make yourself available and empathetic the next time someone is really trying to talk to you. Listen, think, and care for them. Who could use your attention and care today? An elderly neighbor or family member? Someone at work? Don’t assume someone is ‘just fine’ – ask them how they are really doing!
And for cosmos’ sake, please don’t answer that text message.
Thanks for reading,