Choosing Friendships: Are Social Media Friends Real?
Social media friends vs. real friends: what’s the difference? How real are online friendships, and can they be there for you when you feel alone?Show/Hide Transcript
Martin: Let’s do a quick experiment. Think about the number of Instagram followers that you have. Now, add that number to Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter followers that you have as well. It might seem like a lot of connections with a lot of different people, right? But how many of those connections are actual friendships? And does that even matter? What is a friend these days? And where do you find them? Let’s have a Heart and Soul conversation.
Martin: You’re listening to Heart & Soul, a podcast with the Iglesia Ni Cristo, Church of Christ. I’m your host, Martin Zerrudo, and I’ll be interviewing young adults from across the world who are living Christian lives, who are also dealing with real world problems. This is Heart and Soul.
Martin: Welcome to Heart & Soul. Our guests today are Amanda Santiago and Vince Cadigal. Amanda is a nurse here in Toronto, Canada, and Vince is an analyst for the Navy, based in Washington, DC. How’s it going, guys?
Amanda: Hey, Martin.
Vince: Good. How’s it going?
Martin: Going well. Excited for this topic. Now, we also have joining us today Brother Bob, ordained Minister of the Gospel and host of That’s in the Bible. He is a husband and granddad to five, former Air Force and forever Buffalo Bills fan. Hello, Brother Bob, How are you?
Brother Bob: Hello to Brother Martin, Amanda, Vince. Greetings to all.
Martin: We’re so very happy that everyone can join us today. And to our listeners, thank you so much for listening to Episode Two of our podcast. The topic of our lesson today is A Friend In Need, why we need less connections and more friendships. Our first question goes out to Amanda and Vince. When we reached out to you, we let you know that the topic of our conversation is being able to find the right kind of friends that you need in your life. What prompted you? What gave you that courage to say, “you know what, I’m going to be on the show and talk about what I’m going through.”
Amanda: For me, I think that it’s from my past experiences. I thought it would be a great idea to share and talk about it in hopes that other brethren out there can learn from my experiences.
Martin: And Vince?
Vince: I was reached out to by one of my friends out in California, and he thought that my story would be able to do the same thing that Amanda has mentioned before.
Martin: Right on, right on. Was there any hesitation?
Vince: Not really, I’m more of a public speaker. If someone wanted to hear my story, then I’ll gladly tell it.
Martin: Awesome. For you, Amanda?
Amanda: There is a bit of hesitation just because I’m not much of a public speaker as Vince, but my experience, I thought it would be a great idea. So I just went for it.
Martin: Definitely. And I’ve known Amanda for a long time. This is a part of her story that I did not know about. So myself, I’m also super eager to hear about it. So, we’ll get right to our first source. It was from Forbes and it was an article about how connections are easy, but friendships are hard. And we’ll start off our discussion by reading an excerpt from that article. And it says, “What about real friends? What about people to watch a movie or go for a walk or talk about what’s new, what’s upsetting us make us laugh? Where are the people we can tangibly embrace? They might be in another city. They might have impossible schedules. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t there, Skype, email text; they all work to keep us tethered. The hurdle is to be happy and fulfilled with these new forms of friendships.” So, the situation that this article is talking about today is that that friend in front of you that you can hold and you can laugh with and have good times with, and then a friend that you have over social media, what’s the difference? And is it the same kind of happiness and fulfillment as a friend, or is it different?
Amanda: In terms of having friendships in person versus social media, for me is just how you can see them in person versus social media, you can talk to them, you see them through a screen. But when you have that, as you said, tangible method of communicating, seeing person to person is much different, because you can see their visual cues, you can hear them, and you have a stronger connection. But through social media, it’s more difficult to sense their visual cues and so forth. So that’s the difference for me.
Vince: Yeah, I think social media is definitely a great platform to maintain a friendship. Me, personally, I don’t really make friends over just purely social media, everything has been an in person communication, but the route is built on the in person communication. And from there on, you know, once we part ways, we’re still able to maintain that friendship through these different types of platforms like Skype, Facebook, Instagram, just to be caught up with what’s happening in their life.
Martin: For sure. They say when you meet somebody in person for the first time, they’re trying to give you the best first impression, so maybe not all parts of what they’re showing you is as authentic as it can be. Do you feel like that level of superficiality is greater online? Because they can curate everything that they show the world and curate how they communicate with you? Is there a danger? Do you feel like maybe not everything is as it seems, when you’re connecting with somebody online?
Amanda: Nothing is ever as it seems? Yes. Especially on social media, talking about myself included, people like to post pictures and videos about the good things, about what they’ve experienced, and they don’t really share they’re down. So if something happens, they don’t share that, they only share what’s good things about their lives. And so it’s kind of hard to see the whole picture of that person. And that’s one of the downfalls for social media is they paint a positive picture all the time, and you can’t really see the whole picture.
Martin: Is that true,Vince?
Vince: Yes, definitely. As for me, one aspect of it, because there’s also certain other areas in social media where you can private your account and really make it private, and really make it catered towards your closest friends where you can freely speak, and freely post things with your friends’ events.
Martin: Vince, how old are you?
Vince: I’m 24.
Martin: And Amanda?
Martin: 27. Growing up, there was no social media, there was no Internet in terms of making friends. Can you call back to how it was making friends back then versus now? And is it easier? Is it harder?
Amanda: When I was growing up we had IM messenger. So that was a form of social media that we would use to talk, kind of like text messaging on computer. It was actually easy to make friends when I was growing up, especially in the Church. I grew up at the chapel because my parents were choir members. So, they would bring my sister and I to Church during choir practices. And I would hang out with other Church members. So, that was great.
Martin: So, you found it was easier?
Martin: What about you, Vince?
Vince: Yes, growing up, like pre-adolescent days, I felt like everything was easier. The world wasn’t as big and complicated. When you’re a kid, you just want to have fun and run around, right? You know, the other kids on the playground just want to do the same thing. So, I felt that it was easier. And then, the older you get, going through adolescence, I think it starts getting bit more difficult just because it depends on the type of person you are. If you’re an introvert, [an] extrovert, that’ll affect how you treat people and how you meet them.
Martin: Definitely, definitely. I remember when I was a kid in the cafeteria, the talking point was lunch. You sat down beside somebody, “Hey, what do you have for lunch?” “Oh, I have this.” And it’s like, “What do you have?” “Oh, I have rice.” And it’s usually like, “Oh, that’s interesting” while they eat their sandwich. That’s pretty much how friendships were established versus now.
Brother Bob: I see people taking pictures of their food and posting, posting all of their best lunches and dinners and snacks and stuff on their social media accounts. That’s the modern version of what you were describing. When you sit down next to someone in the cafeteria and talk about what you’re having for lunch. Now,they’re doing that online. So, my question to you all would be do you really believe that these people to whom you’re sending pictures of your food, etc., are those friends, or are they acquaintances? It seems to me that the term “friends” has a different meaning. I think I’m quite a bit older than all of you. And I think that whole term for your age group has a different meaning than what it did back in the day.
Brother Bob: A friend was genuinely someone, not that you would just have never met or talked to on the phone or, in today’s case, on social media, it was really someone that was there with you for you and sharing your life. Different meaning of friends now.
Martin: Definitely. And, you know, when you think about it, people used to have pen pals. Right? They would write and they would send mail to each other, but I don’t know if they would be considered of the same kind of friend as a physical friend in front of them. And now, pen pals, to the degree that it is now on social media, is exactly that. You’re just exchanging information and images and videos, but there’s no real physical meeting and interaction that would kind of establish the friendship, which is kind of odd. I do remember messaging though. I was on MSN. I was never on.
Amanda: Oh, yeah…
Martin: There you go.
Amanda: That’s what it’s called.
Martin: I know in the States, right, Vince, was AOL messenger.
Vince: Yeah, AOL.
Martin: What was your handle?
Vince: What was my handle? I think it was a it’s anThing,
Vince: I’m named after my grandfather. And so that’s what they called him. And so I just kind of took that.
Martin: Interesting. Interesting. Amanda, what was your username?
Amanda: It’s really embarrassing. But mind you, I made this account when I was 12. It was Baby Girl. But it was BAB3GUR1.
Martin: There you go.
Vince: Sounds like a good password.
Martin: It’s optimized for search engines. There you go. Mine was… ready? I made this one when I was thirteen, it’s phoenix with a Z, 007. Because, why not, James Bond and a mythical creature?
Vince: Yeah, that’s cool. I mean, you know.
Amanda: That’s really nice actually.
Martin: And I guess that was the extent of trying to make friends online. How cool can your username be? And then the conversation starts. And now it’s like to the nth degree. Like, “How cool can your food look?” Forget talking to the person you’re having the meal with, I need to take a picture.
Brother Bob: I still think that’s one of the most absurd things I’ve seen happening. That’s a sociological phenomenon that I will never get.
Martin: Please don’t check my Instagram. I literally did that yesterday.
Michelle: Hi, this is Michelle Barreda, one of the producers from INC Media. I want to tell you about one of the shows we’re working on called The Solution. It’s a show that provides biblical responses and solutions to common family and life problems. It’s a conversation between guests and Minister learning from the Bible together. In our latest episode, we meet Mark. He’s a university student. And he talks to Donald Pinnock, a minister of the gospel in the Church of Christ, about his struggle with loneliness, and the challenge of making new friends as an adult. Watch this episode and more on incmedia.org/thesolution. Bye for now.
Martin: So, you know, Vince touched on something you know, as kids, it was so much easier. You’re put in a group of a class. Everybody’s the same age, same grade. You kind of progress through elementary school, middle school, sometimes high school together, and when families move away and that structure that you are so familiar with, that you rely on in terms of friends and community changes, you kind of have to redo it all over again. Vince, can you tell us a little bit about what happened when your family went through something similar, or when you went through something similar?
Vince: So,my father was in the Navy for his whole career. We moved every four years, and every time we would move, it’s always a new place, new environment, especially new people, you have to make into your friends. You have to say goodbye to your old friends. Whenever I would move, it would be different. A lot of the time, especially growing up, I became more introverted. I was pretty much a quiet kid growing up. I wouldn’t really approach people, or try to put myself in a situation where it’d be easier to make friends, because I was always shy, always with my parents. So, it was really my parents pushing me to go out. And, for the most part, I would make friends through their friends. They would make friends with the other brethren. And then we would go to their place and then I would make friends with their kids.
Martin: When you describe yourself as an introvert, what does that mean?
Vince: Really shy, really quiet, just to myself. There could be levels of introvert/extrovert. Back then I, whenever we would go to these like area meetings and house parties, would kind of just stay to myself while all the other kids would just hang out because tI didn’t know how to approach it, I didn’t know how to include myself to be part of their group. And so I would just tuck myself away in some corner or hallway. And I remember people always ask me, “Hey, are you okay?” They would find me alone at these parties.
Martin: Right. And when you would find these places to be alone, was it because you were trying to get away? Or you weren’t able to deal with the pressures of talking to people? What was that mechanism to relieve you of?
Vince: Yeah, it was definitely like all the above. I was trying to get away, trying to get away from that social setting and trying to get away from that pressure of these cues of where I put on myself that I need to go talk to these people and be sociable. But I didn’t know how to do that.
Martin: And that was growing up?
Martin: Was that the same for you, Amanda? I know you mentioned friends at Church. But when it came to school, were you introverted? Extroverted? How was that?
Amanda: Well, when I graduated middle school, I went to a new high school. So, I had to make a complete set of new friends. And I knew I had to adapt. So, I’m kind of either, extroverted or introverted. It just depends on the situation. But when I started high school, that very first day, I had to adapt, so I had to make friends. I was in Drama class. It was my first my very first class in high school. And I just popped in, and first I observed and in my surroundings, looked at people, and then I saw another girl, and I approached her first. So that’s how I ended up building my friends and making friendships. I just had to adapt.
Martin: I remember when I was in Grade Eight. I grew up in downtown Toronto, my whole life, and then elementary school. So from kindergarten to grade six, same core group of friends. Then middle school, we have here in Canada, some grade seven and eight, right before high school. That was middle school. And so right after Grade Eight is when you go to high school, right? That’s kind of when you branch off from all of your childhood friends, but in the middle of my eighth grade in school, we moved. Literally halfway through the eighth grade year. So I couldn’t even end my elementary era or generation with them before high school where we all branched off. We were moving. Devastated. Totally, totally devastated. And when we moved to Scarborough, started at a new school had no friends. In my old school, I ran for class president, and in my new school, I was being bullied because some of the things that they were teaching, we’d already learned in my old school, they called me brainer, and they would take markers like Sharpies, and they would write on my clothes, they would write brainer. And I was like, man, this is not fun anymore. I went from a core group of friendsI knew my whole life to this new school where I’m being bullied, and I’m still the same person. How come I don’t have any friends? Vince, how old were you when you moved, and what was that experience?
Vince: I was about 10, 11 years old, moving into middle school. And then…
Martin: Oh, similar?
Vince: Yeah, similar. Even in the middle of my sophomore year, I moved. I didn’t really change high schools, But I did move away from my core group of friends, as far as in Church and the neighborhood. In this new neighborhood, whenever you move within an area, and you’re still at the same local, but you still move, the area groups that we have in Church. So, it’d be a different area group. And so I didn’t really know anyone in there. Being an introvert, I would always keep to my core group of friends, not really branch out from them, even though we grew up together, when we met new people, it was still those same people. And so I didn’t really give myself that option to meet other people.
Martin: Did you resent the fact that you had to start fresh, or that you left your core group of friends?
Vince: A little bit. Definitely at first, when I was really shy. I was like, “Why is this happening? How come I can’t see my friends anymore? How come whenever I go to these Church events, they’re not there.” So definitely resented that fact a lot.
Martin: For sure. Brother Bob, growing up, did you just stay in one school? Was there a moment where your family moved away, and you had to start fresh with your friends?
Brother Bob: I think almost everyone in the military sees their children go through that. And even we in the Ministry, we often move a lot, so our children go through that. And when it comes to friendships, for them, there’s always a danger going into new schools, a danger going into new neighborhoods. You know, the Bible gives a warning about that. It’s recorded in2 Corinthians 11:26. It says this:
In my many travels, I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from my own people and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends.
[2 Corinthians 11:26]
So, here’s a long list of dangers, pretty serious dangers, and included in this list are all kinds of real danger, including false friends. So, going to new places, everyone has to be always alert that there may be those who may try to befriend you, but have ulterior motives. Something always to be alert about.
Amanda: In high school my friends were non-members.
Martin: Can you speak a little bit about those kind of friends, and in relation to the verse that brother Bob said. Were you noticing that maybe some of these friends weren’t necessarily good for you?
Amanda: I did have some friends that were not really good influences. They kind of fell into the peer pressures of experimenting a lot with certain things and trying to fit in with the status quo. And so it was difficult to hold back.
Martin: What would they say to you?
Amanda: They would often say, “Hey, why don’t you just try it? Or, why don’t you just hang out with us? We’re meeting up with these people.” So you don’t know if you don’t like it if you don’t try it, right? And so it was really hard. Peer pressure for me it was really hard in high school. And so I had to always have a constant reminder this is wrong, and try to focus on my studies rather than focusing on trying to fit in.
Martin: Vince, any peer pressures in high school?
Vince: Definitely a lot of peer pressures around. Not really with my friends growing up in high school. I was kind of like the baby of the group because I was somewhat open about my faith. And so they knew that I didn’t celebrate Christmas, didn’t do Halloween, didn’t do a lot of the stuff that they would do. And they also knew that I was pretty active in the Church, you know, in the later years of high school, and they would respect that. I’m not gonna lie, my friends also did those types of things, but they kept me away from that, and they respected my boundaries.
Brother Bob: Sounds like the friends that you chose are a little bit more wholesome than the friends that surrounded you, Amanda. There’s certainly all kinds of people in this world. Allow me, Martin, to read another Bible verse, if I may. James 4:4:
Unfaithful people! Don’t you know that to be the world’s friend means to be God’s enemy? If you want to be the world’s friend, you make yourself God’s enemy.
Brother Bob: So, there’s people that the Bible describes as being of the world orworldly. Their pursuits, their thoughts, their attitudes, their mindset is that of the pursuit of pleasures and the things that will merely and simply satisfy the whims of the flesh, rather than even considering spiritual side of life. And here, the Apostle James kind of presents friendship and the pursuit of friendship in two directions: choosing those who have that worldly mindset that would may then try to tempt you and lead you away as, Amanda, you sound like you may have experienced friends like that, or those who are attempting to be your friend had that kind of mindset, should you have chosen to live your adult life with them as your quote unquote, friends. The Bible says here that you would have been an enemy of God as they are, which of course is not not a good thing, right? So, you make good choices. Good for you, Amanda.
Amanda: Thank you.
Martin: What would you say would be one of those moments where you made that decision? You made the right decision, but it was the hardest moment, what would be a time that you were like, “wow, they’re really pressuring me, or I feel like I’m going to lose these friends if I don’t go along with them.” But you stood your ground.
Amanda: There are many times when they would invite me to house parties. And I know at the time, you’re trying to fit in, you’re trying to be with your friends. And there was one day where they’re just like, “Hey, why don’t you just come. It’ll only be a couple hours. You can leave whenever you want.” And I said…
Martin: Stay tuned to Part Two of A Friend In need, where we find out if Amanda actually went to that house party, and how a New Year’s Eve turned into one of Vince’s loneliest moments of his life.