I am starting to notice a pattern between myself and some of my peers that I feel might be applicable to a lot of us in the 24-29-year-old bracket. We grew up during the dawn of daily internet connection becoming a household thing. (Insert nostalgic comment about the frustrations of dial-up here!) As our minds grew, so too did the ways we could connect with our friends and I wanted to explore this a little.
MINI DISCLAIMER: This is no way reflective of the people I met online and our internet friendships. Some of those are the closest I have and I hope it’s evident that it’s not the aim of my writing to discredit these friendships in any way. This may apply to other age groups too, however, I am writing from my experience.
So what does this mean?
Through text message, AOL, MSN messenger (RIP) and so many other mediums we could get a person to answer any message at any time. A fluid and consistent influx of messages from huge amounts of tenuously linked internet friendships. It made us feel safe in the knowledge that our ‘friends’ were always right there in our lives when we needed to call upon them.
We, in this age group, are now experiencing our first look at REAL adulthood. I’m not talking about University where you think you’re an adult because you don’t live in your parents’ house but you have a huge amount of hours to kill. I mean the ironed-shirt-wearing, thinking about the ‘next step’, “holy effing S this is scary!” beginning of adulthood.
We get less and less free time and yet we still feel we need to preserve those connections with others. Many of us try to maintain those ever-present online attachments we could always control to fill that gap. We reach out through meaningless likes and narcissistic “look what I am doing” posts to maintain those bitterly dying relationships.
What does this mean for me?
I didn’t realise this but I felt anxious following this need for a response. When people read and don’t reply there is sometimes a niggling feeling that there was something I’d done to cause it. I shared this feeling with a number of my peers who told me they felt almost a compulsion to keep these online connections going even when they were destructive to their “real-life” relationships.
This compulsion meant that I never really spent time concentrating on the people who were actually present. I was always trying to keep these ties with people that just couldn’t make the time to spend with me in person.
So what did I do about it?
In 2015/16, I got so low that I decided I had to do something about it. I cut myself off from tech and tried to refocus my energy on people and things that really mattered. It helped me to live a little more in the moment and sever those fragile ties between myself and the idea of extended ‘friendship’.
I kicked these feelings by having tech free days, having a phone/internet ban on nights out, and sometimes just taking a step back and questioning why I really feel this way and whether I’m being too sensitive. Now I feel I have a close few who deserve my full time and energy and my network of casual friends whom I have a history with.
It’s fine to not maintain closeness to everyone you used to be close to. It’s not even about changing as people don’t really change all that much, they just get different priorities. But that’s okay!
I’d love to know, Reader, if you also feel this way sometimes?
Does this affect you?
Further reading: The Challenge of Cyber Culture which, amongst other things discusses the psyches of children of the digital age.