By Ciéra Cree & Soyeenka Mishra
Social media is everywhere – and I mean everywhere. In our hands, in our subconscious, and on the walls of our go-to coffee shops. It’s inescapable – almost trapping at times – but there’s no doubt that the ease of communication it brings is remarkable. You can talk to anyone at anytime and your conversation can take place literally anywhere.
I decided to have a discussion with Soyeenka, an online friend of mine living in India, about the topic of online friendship and social media in general. I wanted to see how she would respond to some of my thoughts and questions on the subject. This is an excerpt from the discussion we had together.
Q1: Do you use many social media platforms?
Soyeenka: ‘Umm, I don’t really know how many counts as too many. I definitely have accounts in MANY social media platforms (most of them abandoned), but I regularly use three of them: WhatsApp, Instagram and Pinterest. And Buzzfeed too, if that counts.’
Q2: Have you made many friends online?
Soyeenka: ‘I have made around 4 friends online, out of whom, you are the only one I’m still in contact with (not for lack of trying on my part, though). 2 of them either stopped replying or didn’t bother to start up a conversation, and the one who is left I talked to infrequently throughout last year but I guess we are still pretty close since we share some common interests. I felt distant when I talked with them really.’
Q3: Have you come across any dangers online regarding this?
Soyeenka: ‘Not yet, no. I’ve gotten quite a few messages from creepy sounding people so I just ignore them at all times. Prevention is better than cure, in most cases, therefore I don’t respond to anything that seems remotely off. So no, I haven’t come across anything potentially dangerous when making friends online.’
Q4: Do you consider online friends to be actual friends and, if so, what would you say to those who don’t?
Soyeenka: ‘I definitely consider online friends as actual friends, if not more. I have a total of 4 close friends, and I’m very chatty with 2 of them. I talk with you nearly as often as them (I’m sure we would talk more if it were not for the time zone difference).’
‘To those who don’t consider online friends as actual friends, they must really have a genuine out-of-the-way reason for thinking so. I mean, hey, the other person might be considering you as a really good friend and here you are, just using them to pass time. Friendship is a two-way street, therefore both of the people must be equally invested in it. The people who don’t consider an online friend as actual friends are unconsciously wasting their own time too, with meaningless (on their part) talks as well as the time of the other person (since there are people out there who truly want to make friends). As for me, I definitely consider the connection I have with people I befriend online as actual friendship.’
Q5: As a whole, what do you think about social media?
Soyeenka: ‘I can identify what problems/dangers a person may face as side effects of social media, but I tend to stay safe and use it in an appropriate manner. That being said, I consider it to be a place where we can find the content of our interest (for me that being the likes of fanfiction and fanart). We can also connect with people all over the world, but that’s not something new.’
‘It’s through the means of social media that we can also follow the lives of the people we look up to or admire. Apart from the general uses of it to make friends and talk with them, social media also provides a platform where one can choose to remain anonymous if they want to, supplying them with the self-confidence and courage they may lack during a real-life conversation.’
‘I agree that there are far too many cons of social media keeping in mind how the world is today, but as long as it’s used sensibly these can be largely avoided. I personally love social media, it helps me to discover things within my interests such as book recommendations.’
Q6: Where do you see social media heading in the future?
Soyeenka: ‘Well, social media has definitely come a long way from where it started. People can not only share their thoughts and pictures, but also other things like media files, documents etc.’
‘Nowadays people are so invested in social media that returning to real life can seem hard. Heck, people have close-knit friend circles over social media as well as friends who without it they would have never come into contact with. At the same time, however, social media to some extent contributes to the detriment of people (but all the memes are cool though…). Jokes aside, what turn social media would take in the future, in my opinion, totally depends on the developers and the current generation who both use the platforms now and shall also be the ones developing them further in years to come.’
‘In the future I just want it to be something parents warn their children not to use, at least not without the necessary restrictions. It should be something people can look forward to after a long day of school, work or whatever it may be as a place to destress as opposed to one which can sadly cause further tension and anxiety among its users.’
What are your thoughts on social media and our increasingly connected future? Are you a pessimist, an optimist, or a mixture of the two?