Facebook Friendships

Everyone has a Facebook. And you? You have, like, 3,000 friends! It’s easy to feel popular every time you log on. And you are getting to know all these people as they update their statuses. At any given hour, you can find out what your friends ate for breakfast, that they are bored, that they have a lot of homework to do, that their parents are dweebs, that they went to the bathroom 5 times in an hour…..

But is it real?

I heard this term – cotton candy friendships – the other day, and it stuck with me. It was regarding the social life of teens online, especially when it comes to Facebook.  Think about it.  Cotton candy is the kind of treat that we all crave. It is super sweet, has a great texture, and dissolves in your mouth. Who really wants to share their cotton candy? Not me! When you buy cotton candy, you want it all to yourself. You can eat a whole bunch of that yummy cotton goodness! But what happens 30 minutes later? You’re hungry. You want something real. You need to be fed.

The thing about the internet is that it is incredibly convenient. When a teen can’t really leave the house because it is after hours or they can’t drive anywhere, Facebook is wide open for socializing with friends. Their friends list can include the people they are close to all the way to the most popular kid in school that they have never talked to in person. And while it is so easy to get swept into the socialism of Facebook and let that take over, inevitably, teens get….hungry. They need to see people face to face, to know what it’s like to connect. Knowing what everyone’s doing at all moments can be exhilarating, but it can also bring up feelings of jealousy as they watch their friends make plans without them. And then there are the false friendships that are created. A Facebook friendship is not the same as a real life friendship. Just because you know every movement of someone you have only talked to online does not make you great friends in real life.

It’s cotton candy, remember?

So how does a teen make friends? I found a great article by Vanessa Van Petton, the very person who coined the phrase “Cotton Candy Friends”.  In it, she urges parents to talk about the differences of online friendships and real life friendships, and the different needs their real life friends might fill. Your teen might have one friend that they can confide in, one to shop with, one to study with, and one to gossip with. And they are all considered your teen’s best friend. That’s ok. And know what else is ok? Having only one good friend. That friend can be the one your teen can call when they are incredibly sad or when they have really good news to share – and they are really there for them, not just “liking” their status. And that is worth way more than 3,000 friends and their status updates on Facebook.

Is it ok to have Facebook friends? Sure. But it’s important for your teen to understand the difference between their real life friendships, and the ones that only exist online.

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4 thoughts on “Facebook Friendships”

  1. You keep saying “your teen” needs to realize ___ about facebook …and “your teen” etc etc….

    What if an adult were to be spending too much time on facebook?

    (*cough* looks around *cough*)

    Not that I….know anyone like that. But if I did, where might such a person go for help? You know, “Facebook Anonymous”?

    Um, thanks 😉

  2. Just because I like to take on the unofficial roll of technology defender, I have to (as usual) throw in my two cents.

    No, Facebooking isn’t like talking to REAL people, doesn’t give one the same socialization skills or whatever that we, as a social animal, need.

    However, it does allow me to keep in contact with people in a way that I just…wouldn’t…otherwise. I have lived in a number of places. I have lived a number of years. I have moved and friends have moved. I love them and miss them and I am absolutely DREADFUL about keeping in touch.

    When I was 13, my family and I moved to a different state than the one I had spent most of my growing up years in. I called and wrote from time to time…one friend and I exchanged ridiculously long letters in sticker-covered envelopes…but I was still so very very out of touch with their lives. When I moved back four years later, they had been through so much without me that I just had no connection with.

    Upon my return, my life was hectic, and I was even worse at keeping in contact with the friends I had made in high school out of state.

    Then, a few years ago, this social networking site called Friendster came into the world. (oooh! Way Back Machine!) It started a change…then there was MySpace…I found people I hadn’t seen in years and dropped them notes and had little chats. And then came Facebook, with threaded conversations and status updates that encouraged users to post the minutia of their days, from what they were eating for breakfast to how they feel about the weather at that very moment. I don’t only find out that a friend learned the sex of her baby-to-be, but that she has morning sickness, AGAIN. I was thrilled to discover that a childhood buddy has become a world-class dressage horse trainer. I am more thrilled to read how she feels about the finicky new mare that the stable just acquired.

    I re-connected with friends from high school…the children I grew up next door to who now live in Spain and the middle east…and they aren’t just friends I used to have…they are people whose daily lives I share in, comment on, think about. I learn of their daily likes and dislikes, joys and triumphs…both large and small. I get to experience the details of their lives, not just the broad strokes one hears about in a letter or rare phone call-to-catch-up…I get to know the stuff that REALLY matters. I get to still have them as friends, rather than “that guy I used to go to school with” or “that girl who I could have been great friends with if we had gotten the chance before life intervened.”

  3. Oh, and yeah, I know you aren’t condemning technology, and I DO get your point about online friendships…I swear I do.
    When I made the switch to FB, I consciously avoided the mistake I had made on previous social networking sites — adding anyone and everyone who seemed the least bit interesting. On FB I add only people I actually know…especially since my page will be flooded with information from every person I add, and as I’m a little obsessive-compulsive and MUST at least glance at everything that’s been posted.

    And I do need to have, and am lucky enough to have, my ‘at least one real friend’ here in the real world. Social networking is certainly NOT a replacement for human interaction.

    But Facebook friendships have their place and their value as well.

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