In light of recent events at our high school, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about friends. Facebook friends, lunch friends, cry on your shoulder friends, or, as one comedienne recently put it, Bronco driving friends. And the book I’m reading right now (Gen Buy: How Tweens, Teens, and Twenty-Somethings are Revolutionizing Retail) is verifying what I’ve suspected. We can be “connected” to hundreds of people and feel completely alone.
According to the authors, “Only half of Americans today say that they have a friend, besides their spouse, to confide in and rely on for support. That’s a big drop from 1985, when nearly three-quarters of Americans felt they had such a friend. One-quarter of Americans say they don’t have anybody to confide in. . . . hundreds of Facebook friends and dozens of daily email exchanges don’t cut it when it comes to feeling the safety and support of close friends and confidents.”
The “recent event” is the tragic suicide of a young man who, reportedly, had over 1,000 Facebook friends. Some of them had to be good friends. But how many were friends “to confide in and rely on for support”? We can’t know. What we do know, increasingly, is that texting and IMing aren’t providing teens with the relationships they need. But I know, from watching the specimens in my own house, that that is pretty much all the species does to communicate.
What’s the answer? Any suggestions? I I’ve got a lot of teenagers on my Facebook list. I’d love to hear your thoughts.