Has Social Media Ruined The Idea Of Friendship?
On Monday, the country pays tribute to Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and it is impossible to ignore that his words are still as relevant today as when Dr. King marched from Selma to Montgomery. We are a nation divided. In this present moment of civil unrest, leaders on both ends of the political spectrum are blaming social media for undermining, if not ruining, our democracy. Whether by profiting from amplifying lies and disinformation and allowing rioters to organize on the one hand, or curbing free speech and controlling the flow of information on the other, social media is now officially deemed the facilitator of America’s political demise. This is a far fall for social media giants, who were praised only ten years ago for their role in the Arab Spring.
While blaming social media for ruining democracy may allow for an easy scapegoat, it does not identify the true role that social media has played in our arrival to where we find ourselves today as a country. If we want to understand the relationship between social media and democracy, we need to understand how social media changed the meaning of the word “friend.”
We all have friends—or at least we did before we uploaded our identities to our social media pages.
Technology has made it easier during the pandemic to keep in touch with friends and family while maintaining social distance. It has also allowed us to start new friendships with people we might never have met, but who share our beliefs or values—and, most importantly, our need for connection. Yet our use of social media has also come with major consequences.