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What Ever Happened to Friendship? The Decline of Social Interaction in a Social Media Driven World & What We Can Do to Reverse It

Have you ever had one of those moments where you're surrounded by people, yet feel so incredibly alone? I read an interesting article a few weeks ago which suggested that as we age, we become less and less social. As children, teens, and young adults, socialization is a priority, as our main goal is to find a mate or life partner. As we socialize, we pick up friends along the way, many of which are life-long. Once we find our mate, however, we no longer feel the need to be constantly social. We sort of settle into a routine and begin to live life with someone else.

I'm so blessed to have my husband as my best friend.

While it's amazing to find the right person to spend your life with, and I thank God every day that he brought me and my husband of eleven years together twenty years ago, I'm starting to see a decline in my own life for the want of friends or being social with other people. It can be difficult to make friends face to face these days, but using an online people finder can help you find friend matches. Searching for people who share similar interests, or who live in your area can make finding new friends easier.

I've always been reserved and guarded, which can make it difficult to make friends in the first place. Regardless of what others may think of me from social media posts or blogging, my life is hardly an open book. It's not easy for me to open up to people I feel that I don't wholly trust, and I'm not one to quickly convey my emotions. 

Being guarded can lead to others labeling people as being intimidating or unapproachable. Heck, even the ways in which we speak can be intimidating, or so I've been told. With the rise in popularity of social media, there seems to be an almost constant decline in the need to be social offline. I used to be brighter, bubblier, and always jumped at an opportunity to volunteer or be around others who I knew were good for my soul. Life's hardships and the honest loneliness of motherhood have sort of taken a toll on an otherwise extroverted individual. Day by day, I see myself shrinking back- from people, from wanting to be involved in things I used to love doing, and even from day to day responsibilities.

So many of our contributors at Mommy's Block Party have opened up and discussed their experiences with Post Partum Depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders. These are real women- wives, moms, surrounded by thousands of followers and friends on social media, and yet we're all struggling to keep our heads above the choppy waters of real life.

So, what gives?

The way I see it is that so many of us think, 'Oh, I follow you on Facebook, see your status updates every day. I know everything there is to know about you.' Why bother communicating face to face? Why bother saying 'hello' and smiling as you pass by someone you know? You 'liked' their post on social media, so surely they know they have your support, yada yada. The truth is, we only see what others want us to see on social media- the good, the attention-grabbers... I'm sure as heck not sharing a photo of myself with my mascara smeared, a half-empty wine glass on the bookshelf, a toddler who refuses to sleep in their own bed stretched out uncomfortably over half of my body on the couch at 9 pm on a Tuesday, counting down the minutes as I wait for my husband to come home. But you know what? That's 'the norm' for me. Most nights in my house are exactly like that.

Real life, unfiltered.

Those moments are lonely. And you might ask how a mom of two, who always has little people who adore her around her winds up feeling lonely- especially when 'friends' are a click or text away. The reality- it's not just me... it's moms everywhere, and it's an unspoken truth which for some reason, we choose to sweep under the rug rather than talk about. The problem is that social media makes it too easy to simply ignore others (we can hide what we don't want to see, right?), and texting- don't get me started. Texting a friend doesn't guarantee a response, and phone calls are pretty pointless, thanks to Caller ID (I mean, we all screen our calls, and I'm just as guilty as anyone else). 

Example: I attended an event with my son at our church just the other day for a group of 2nd graders and their parents. The kids were happy to see each other and quick to talk to one another. The parents? Forget it- forced half smiles through tightened lips, and hardly a 'hello' was uttered. The epitome of an awkward situation. What in the world? How is it that the current generation of parents of young kids (late 20 to 40 somethings) has forgotten social etiquette? 

Another example: I'm the mom who sits and waits in the car until the teachers open the school doors for pick up time at my daughter's preschool. I don't want to converse with the other moms who I don't know for five minutes while we wait. Like I said, I'm just as guilty as the next.

Sometimes friendships happen when you need them most.

Why do we throw ourselves to the wolves on social media, yet become wallflowers in real life? Behind every screen (phone, tablet, laptop) sits a person... with feelings, and whether or not they want to admit it, with the need for actual face to face interaction with others. Even if we've found our partner for life, and even if we have kids who light up our lives, we still need people to navigate the waters of life with. 

“Is any pleasure on earth as great as a circle of Christian friends by a good fire?” - C. S. Lewis

It's my firm belief that God desires us to be in relationships with one another. Some may argue that friendships are pointless or unnecessary, but I disagree. We need each other. We need each other to lean on, share with, encourage and support. Marriage takes work, and friendships do, too. I have a couple of friends who I feel are way better friends to me than I am to them, and it's time for me to step up and be the friend they need me to be as much as they are the friends that I need them to be. Is it time for you to step up and be a good friend, as well? Relationships change as we go through different stages of life, but friends stick with one another no matter the circumstances.

The Bible offers so many examples of the importance of friendship through scripture. 

Some of my favorite verses about friendship:

John 15:12-15 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.

Colossians 3:12-14 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Proverbs 11:14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

How to Begin New or Maintain Current Friendships

I'm going to issue a few challenges, and you can take them or leave them, but I hope that you'll consider doing some of these:

Say hello to other people.
It's really easy, takes very little effort- just a simple smile and a 'hello.'

Phone a friend.
Seriously- pick up the phone and call a friend, just to check in and see how they're doing.

Check and respond to your texts.
Can you spare five minutes to check your texts and respond to your friends? If they texted you, they've taken a step to show you that they care about you. How about returning that same love and care?

Make a date.
Maybe it's time to call an old friend and meet for lunch so you can catch up or reminisce about old times? Did you meet someone new? Ask them to meet up for coffee so you can get to know them better. Is there a new mom at school, at church, etc? Why not schedule a playdate- playdates are just as good for parents as they are for kids.

Host a meet-up.
If you consider yourself to be outgoing, maybe it's time for you to reach out to other moms who might be looking to find their 'tribe.'

I certainly don't have all of the answers when it comes to friendship. In fact, in my adult life, I have chosen to keep my friendships to a minimum. The older I get, however, the more I see a need for expanding the circle and working harder to show my love and support to the people I care about. 
Old friends or new friends, whoever they may be, remember that they are a part of your life- a gift from God, placed in your path for a reason.

If you're working on maintaining and friendship or perhaps mending a broken one, The Friendship Prayer is a beautiful way to pray for strengthening a relationship or growth.

Here's to friends, and thanks be to God who gave us Jesus, his Son- our Savior and closest friend of all.

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