Social media and passive friendship


    Social media can be painful because we feel like we’re always ‘on’ and always seeing the best of other people’s lives and comparing it to the mundanity of our own. But what if we stopped seeing social media like that, took an active part in it and used it to better connect with our friends?

    I was talking to my friend C about her decision to deactivate her social media accounts, to give herself some breathing room.  C and I have newly defined our relationship as friends; previously just Facebook friends, Instagram followers and occasional meeter-uppers at events.  But when she said she was leaving social media I dropped her a message to say I’d miss her and I’d like to keep in contact.  I realised that whilst I ‘liked’ a lot of her photos, occasionally comments and watched her Instagram stories, I had never really expressed how much I enjoyed seeing them, until it was almost too late – and I wasn’t the only one.

    It reminded me of a conversation with someone I’ve known for over a decade, in real life and online.  I asked L about whether I would see some photos of their upcoming holiday and L expressed a reticence to post them after their last holiday ones didn’t get much reaction.  I love seeing holiday photos, because I like seeing new things and also I really like seeing the people I love being happy.  L isn’t the sort of fame-hungry social media addict that’s in it for the likes and it made me realise that whilst the naysayers of social media talk about the addiction to likes, maybe it’s not just about the dopamine, but also about the knowledge that our friends care.  I went back, found the photos and liked nearly all of them and commented on a few, because my friend’s happiness is important to me; it wasn’t about making sure the photos had more likes, it was about my friend knowing that someone liked that they were on holiday enjoying themselves.

    But somewhere along the way, we seem to have forgotten that social media was about being social. Watching a story, clicking a thumbs up or heart button isn’t a two-way communication tool and we’re worse off for thinking it is.

    Gone are the heydays of sites like LiveJournal, where people would updated a shared diary for the world, or a select group of friends to see, mundanity and all.  Social media, selfies and filters have created a world of sharing our best selves and those worse days are often left unsaid, at least online.  Whilst we share more with the world online, we also hide a lot more too.

    megaphone-3253350_1920Part of this could be because, these days, the title of what ‘friend’ means is utterly confused.  Facebook friends can often include old classmates last seen decades ago, one-night-stands, ex-colleagues and in some cases strangers.  To ‘friend’ someone is now used as a verb, so where does it leave those we would call our friends?  And if we ‘friend’ our friends as well as all those other people we ‘friend’ are we engaging in the relationship building we’d expect with our actual friends?  Are we sharing what we’d share with our actual friends or just presenting another type of front, but this one curated for the internet.

    What if the problem with social media isn’t always the platforms, but sometimes with the users?  Social media has largely erased acronyms like BRB and TTYL,  producing a sense that we’re always ‘on’ and that this can lead to a massive sense of being overwhelmed, let alone the feeling that we must put our best selves forward online.  But somewhere along the way, we seem to have forgotten that social media was about being social. Watching a story, clicking a thumbs up or heart button isn’t a two-way communication tool and we’re worse off for thinking it is.

    What if, instead of all this technology meant to connect us leaving us feeling more disconnected, we used it to re-connect in a more meaningful way? I can read and like all the stuff a celebrity posts online, doesn’t mean we’re actually friends; the magic of a friendship is in the shared connection.  So what if we used social media for what we all thought it was created for in the first place: for being social. We can reclaim social media to actively nurture relationships with our friends.  In a blog post, Rohan Rajiv talks about “make a list of the friendships that matter to you and think about ways to keep them active.” But this doesn’t need to be as calculated: ‘like’ what you like, but leave a comment telling people why you liked it.  Slide into the DMs, send a whatsapp/message and check in with your friend on occasion, because if they’re having a hard time, you probably won’t see it in a status update.

    Related reading

    Active friendships vs passive friendships

    ‘Mean Girls’ and Beyond: Is Social Media Killing Female Friendships?

    How Real Are Facebook Friendships?


    Fat Friends the Musical at New Alexandra Theatre

    Fat Friends

    Fat Friends the Musical is a feel-good play with plenty of belly laughs. (I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.)

    Reuniting the characters from Kay Mellor’s hit TV show, Fat Friends follows the struggles of a group of overweight friends who attend a slimming club based in Headingley, a suburb of Leeds.  Kelly has a larger-than-life personality but is struggling to fit into her dream wedding dress, lovelorn group leader Lauren is trying to find the man of her dreams, whilst Kelly’s father Fergus is just trying to keep the family chip shop open.

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    Quarterly update

    Quarterly Update 14

    I’m not really one for New Year’s Resolutions, there’s something a bit joyless about them – they always seem to be about berating yourself for not being good enough.  And I’m quite versed at doing that without having resolution hanging round like millstone round my neck.  But I do like the timeliness of setting myself a challenge that is smart – sensible, measurable, attainable, resourced and time-limited.

    This year I wanted to revive some of the challenges I’ve done before, like the book and film challenges, but add in another one for the theatre.  A few years ago I went to the theatre quite a bit, and I really enjoy it, but with everything going on it’s really easy to forget this.

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    Rotterdam at Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham


    Alice is about to click send on an email to her parents to tell them she’s a lesbian, when her partner of seven years, Fiona, reveals that she has always thought she were a man and now wants to start living as one, as Adrian.

    As Adrian begins his transition, Alice wants to be supportive but is conflicted what this means for her: is she still a lesbian if she is in a relationship with Adrian, does she want to be in a relationship with him, and what about her work colleague Lelani? And what does this mean for Josh, Adrian’s older brother and Alice’s ex; will he finally move on from his own heartache at losing his girlfriend to his own sibling?

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    Month in review – March 2018


    This month can mainly categorised by what my boss terms ‘floored by flu’.  I ended up off work for two weeks with the flu, which included the worst sinus pain I’ve ever had, double ear infections, sore throat and the inability to be more than four steps away from a kettle.  Whilst I’m over the worst of it, some of the symptoms are stubbornly sticking around and I’m trying not to push it too much.

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    Testosterone at mac Birmingham

    image1Trans identity seems to be very much in the public eye at the moment, but a lot of the stories in mainstream media seem to be focused on the stories of trans women.  The role of the trans man, whether it’s less glamorous or perhaps more hidden, is one that seems to have been somewhat downplayed.  But Rhum and Clay in collaboration with Kit Redstone’s British Council Showcase  play Testosterone is less a play about trans identity and more a play about what it is to be a man, seen uniquely though the eyes of someone who has been watching, and wondering, how to be a man most of his life.

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    The Kite Runner at Birmingham Rep

    The Kite Runner 2018 - 4 RAJ GHATAK (Amir) and castPhoto Betty Zapata

    Following an outstanding run at London’s West End, The Kite Runner has landed in Birmingham and it is one of the most enthralling yet haunting productions I’ve seen on stage.

    Adapted by Matthew Spangler from Afghan-American Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel of the same name, The Kite Runner tells a powerful father-son story of redemption, spanning several countries and generations.  It’s a powerful story that has already translated well onto a successful film, but after a raft of positive reviews for its West End run, the production has gone on a UK tour.

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