Social networking allows us to interact with more people, but be more lonely in doing so. We tend to hang out less often than we used to. We spend more time sleeping, exercising, and with entertainment than we do with informal social interactions. Between 1965 and 1995, the reported amount of time people spent socializing went from 85 minutes to 57 minutes per day. The amount of picnics had also dropped by 60 percent. The amount of time we spend with our friends is now shifting to spending time on the internet.
The internet and social networking has transformed the way we socialize. On the internet, relationships tend to be more self-centered than interpersonal. Sites such as Facebook and Myspace have become places where we show ourselves off to those willing to stop and take a look. Cyberbalkanization, when our online interactions are with people who share similar interest, decreases how much we encounter a meaningful discussion and outside perspectives. The real world on the other hand, forces us to deal with diversity. Many of these experiences can come from close friends.
The meaning of “friend” is being diluted by today’s social scene. The significance of the word “friend” must have decreased so much that a new phrase “best friend” had to replace it. On average, one has fewer close individuals they can confide in than in the past. A study in the American Sociological Review stated that in 1985, the average American had three people in which to confide. This number dropped to about two in 2004, and one in four had none at all. These kinds of close relationships are a safety net that we rely on to keep us up and going when we fall on hard times. Decrease in social interaction has been linked to poor mental and physical health. The things we need most are these close friends. Maybe being friend zoned isn’t so bad?