It feels good to have a large circle of friends.
Many of us are guilty of wanting larger social media numbers—friends, followers or fans, depending on the platform. The term for this is called ‘vanity metrics’, defined by Techcrunch.com as: “things like registered users, downloads, and raw page views. They are easily manipulated, and do not necessarily correlate to the numbers that really matter.”
While Techcrunch is referring to numbers that correlate to business, I think it relates back to the average person and their desire for ‘friends’ on social media also. It is human nature to want to be heard, noticed and liked, and seeing that number of followers grow on your own social media profiles can be very gratifying. For our kids, it can also be very dangerous, as they can easily get caught up in the comparison game, and feel unworthy if they don’t have enough ‘friends’.
Once your teens hit high school, when it comes to making friends—in real life and online—some of the guidelines that you may have previously suggested, sort of vanish. In their younger years, I always suggested that my kids try to be friends with everyone—the whole class—and I thought that they would continue that on into high school. However, now I realize that they don’t have to be friends with everyone. In fact, I encourage them not to be.
As adults, we often gravitate towards friends that are in the same place in life that we are. That can be ones with similar jobs, family life, social activities, or even neighbours. Even in adulthood, friends fall away from our lives as they change socio-economic status, choose a different life path or move away. In high school, kids are really starting to define themselves by their interests, who they hang out with, and trying on different personas as they find themselves. This can change of course, but it is usually at this time that some kids start experimenting with risky behaviour. Just like in adulthood, as interests change, sometimes your friendships do too.
In the age of ‘collecting’ friends as part of our narrative, the tendency is to ‘accept everyone’ online, which can give a false sense of true friendships. Similarly, in real life, high school is the time when your kids may start realizing that other kids don’t necessarily hold the same core values as they do. They may not be able to verbalize this, but I have seen my own daughters shy away from kids they were previously friends with because those kids have shown conflicting interests.
There is no right or wrong way to approach it, but I what I have concluded is that you just don’t have to be friends with everyone. You don’t have to be an enemy, or trivialize their life choices, but you don’t have to be friends either.
In real life, or online.
(Photo credit: Deb Brown Photography)