Online Friends – No Effort Required


Last night I had dinner with my grandad. No particular occasion, which I think often makes for a more enjoyable evening anyway. As usual it was full of interesting conversation. We spoke on the impending referendum, cruising on the Shannon, his new publication on the history of St. Lukes Hospital, Ireland’s faltering competitiveness and also on the differences between today’s friendships and those of his generation when he was young.

Is Social Media Ruining Friendships?

This last point got me thinking about the impact that social media is having on modern day friendships. Having online friends (or friends online) makes it way too easy to put off visiting them in person. If all your friends are on Facebook or Bebo, and each of them is just a click away, does that reduce the incentive to pick up the phone, or call around for a brew? I think it does.

As for my grandad, he’s still in touch with many of his childhood friends. Only last week he corresponded with the guy he sat next to in primary school! He didn’t need technology to help him maintain this friendship over the years, yet he’s managed to keep it up all the same. He’s never used technology to stay in touch with his friends, yet he’s always been great at it. And I think the reason is because he had no other choice. Our generation however are not so lucky.

Too Easy To Stay In Touch

Having all your friends just a click away, promotes lazy friendships. It’s too easy to contact them only when you need something and then to ignore them the rest of the time. Because they’re always online, there’s no risk of losing touch.

Now I’m not talking about your closest friends, the ones you’ll see all the time anyway. I’m talking about the ones you went to school with and who you grew up with, the ones you no longer see on a daily basis. These are the friends that slip through the cracks. Neither of you want to lose touch but somehow it just ends up that way.

Social networks are supposed to help us with this problem but instead I think they achieve the opposite. Having a friend in my list of connections, dropping them a funny story or interesting comment every once in a while is a shadow of the relationship that it would be had I spent that time with them in a more engaging way.

The Limits of Technology

Technology may be able to tell me when they’re online and what they had for breakfast that morning, but it won’t help to maintain my friendship with them on any real level. For that, you’ve got to go meet with them face-to-face just like when my Grandad was a young man. But it’s easier for him, he doesn’t know any different. Making friends, and keeping them has always needed deliberate effort by both parties. With online social tools, the need for that effort is much smaller and my concern is that since more and more of my friends are now just a click away. It’ll be too easy to just drop them a text or a twitter instead of actually meeting up and building on the friendship.


3 Comments added. Add comment?

  1. Michael O'Donnell says:

    Hi Iarfhlaith,
    Loving the blog. Am thinking about getting an Asus laptop myself. I’ve been using the 02 mobile broadband for the last 3 months and can really get some really fast speeds depending on where I am.

    If you’d like to meet up during the week, I’m always around town.

    Talk soon,


    May 18, 2008
  2. Iarfhlaith says:

    Thanks Michael,

    I’m moving into my new office in the Docklands on Monday so I’ll be around town a lot more often.

    I’ll give you a buzz early next week.

    May 18, 2008
  3. Darragh says:

    Loving the comment buttons – well done 🙂

    May 19, 2008

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