Making friends can be hard sometimes. As a primary school student I moved interstate 3 times in 1 year and went to 4 different schools in less than 3 years. Making friends is easier if you are a confident communicator - it is also a lot easier when you meet people who are like you, cos hey, it’s much easier to talk to new people when you have things in common.
I remember very fondly the day I got my pen license, probably because I had failed it once and as an 8-year-old perfectionist, no one wants to fail anything twice. Plus, pens are heaps cooler than pencils, fact.
Fast forward quite a few years (maths isn’t my strong point) and here I was touch typing away in the computer lab on my way to the 21st century.
Sadly, I don’t remember the first words I let out, but I imagine it was something like “how’s about the Melbourne weather?!” – and this magical ability to talk was developed over the next 13 years of schooling.
Needless to say, by the time I left school I had the two most important ways for communicating down pat – writing and talking. These things were essential for me in making friends – they built my confidence so that I could have conversations with people, both in person and after we’d met. And making friends builds confidence – it’s a magical cycle that all leads to building our social capital: which is a term used to describe the networks we have and the social and personal benefit that they bring us.
It’s now 2016 and most of us use social media to communicate and get our news – hey, we’re doing it right now. We make friends and we strengthen friendships online, we find out about things that people like us (PLU’s) are doing and we have conversations about things that matter to us. For example, you might share a video that gives a really unique perspective that you haven’t thought of before. For me, I recently shared a photo of myself in a campaign I am proud to be part of.
When we do all of these things in the “real world”, it is seen as really good for us.
Yet for some reason, there’s a lot of negative talk about people doing the same thing in the “digital world” (i.e. on social media) – it’s narcissistic, harmful to relationships and fleeting.
WHY the hate? Is it because some people are afraid that social media is allowing the introverts of the world to take over? Or because it is actually galvanizing people whose voices aren’t usually heard, or don’t have the confidence to do it face-to-face, to have a chance to build their social capital?
Fortunately, research shows that social media and digital channels actually help young people build confidence by providing platforms that transcend race and culture.
It also helps young people participate in “friendship-driven activity” that they wouldn’t otherwise feel comfortable to do so offline.
And, digital channels are shaping the way we create social change. Like 18-year-old Michelle Ryan Lauto, who sent a Facebook message to 600 of her friends to protest school funding cuts. Her friends did, and then their friends did, and next thing you know 18,000 students staged one of the largest grassroots protests in New Jersey’s history.
All of this stuff builds people’s confidence – a key skill in finding your way through work and the world, particularly if you feel more comfortable online. And if that is you, you should feel bloody OK about that.
I am an extrovert. I recently got 90% for extroversion on one of those myers-briggs tests. But I know for certain that I benefit greatly from social media and it’s here to stay, so rather than hating on it, let’s find ways to embrace it.