Social media “friends”: Are they really?

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Pinterest. I find these and other social media sites mean different things to different people. For some, it’s all about their “friends” and what everybody’s up to. Some see them as platforms for networking, entertainment, connecting with far-away loved ones or a place to play fun and addictive games. They can be quick and easy party planners and ways of showing Great Aunt Sue in Nova Scotia pictures of Junior catching his first fish – seconds after the big catch!

For others, they have become daily journals of details that in any previous generation would never have been widely shared. They are a place to post a photo shoot of your perfectly garnished linguini carbonara or the beautiful pineapple upside-down cake you just baked. Remember back-in-the-day, before social media, when we used to take pictures of our meals, print them and run them over to all our friends’ houses to show them? No? Me neither. LOL!

I think for most though, these social media sites are at a minimum connection spaces – whether that connection is made with information, entertainment, resources or with other human beings. Love them or hate them, Facebook, Twitter and the like, have certainly solidified a place in our cultural landscape. The thing is though, social media has also changed the definition of “friend” for our kids. As a parent and a public health nurse talking and sharing information with families, I have some concerns since the research is still young about the impact social media is having on our relationships with each other.

Hands Holding Friends in the Sky

I think we all want our kids to have lifelong friends that treat them the way they should be treated, are reliable, loyal, kind and forgiving. However, my worry is that ours is the first generation for whom “friends” are measured in numbers and don’t necessarily “vanish” through natural means such as going away to college/university or moving to Europe. Have you ever thought about that? Nobody ever truly leaves anymore. Something to think about, no?

Ours is the first generation of parents that needs to really teach our kids about not only making friends, but keeping only the ones that are a positive and uplifting force in their lives; that friends are selected, not accumulated, and sometimes it’s important to move away from those that put them down. Any social media user has likely had someone who’s been absent for 15 years and then suddenly sends an FB “friend” request. Maybe you’re fine with that, but maybe the reaction is more like, “Yikes. She’s found me. I thought that phase of my life was over!”

So, what do we want to teach our kids about the meaning of friendship? What should they be looking for in a friend? What do you value in your friends? What do you think your kids should value? What should “friends” on social media mean to them and how should they handle them? What strategies do they need to learn to manage their social media conversations and “friendships?” You’re their model. They need you to show them that real friendships exist far beyond a screen they can hold in their hands.

I’m not trying to be preachy by any means. Social media has allowed amazing connections in many ways. I just think maybe these questions are worth a thought and a discussion with our kids.

Tell us what you think because we’re here too…to connect with you. Whatever your opinions on social media “friends”, Facebook and other similar platforms, do have a look at our HaltonParents Facebook page. There you’ll find tips on how to teach your kids to build healthy friendships and loads of other things. It’s written by public health nurses and contains lots of current, reliable information for you and your family. See you there!

What do you think?

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) Simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.

About this blogger:

Paula D’Orazio RN is a public health nurse with the Early Years Health Program at the Halton Region Health Department. Wanna know more about her?  Read her blogs! She’ll tell ya! (She kinda likes to talk.)

This entry was posted in Mental Health, Parenting, Preschool, School, School-aged Children, Teens and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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