The Gems of our Nature

February 16, 2010
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My grandmother is an extraordinary person. When I was five, she was the closest friend I had. I still remember those times when I spent the entire weekend at her house, absorbing all the enriching memories of the past that seemed to flow out of her like the water of a regal fountain. We would take long strolls on the beach, go to our favorite restaurants, spend our days at the bargain stores that she seemed to hold sacred, and relax at her humble abode while I stuffed my face with the desserts only she possessed. We were inseparable. Now, eleven years later, instead of my everlasting ally, she is my Facebook friend; my Gmail contact; another name on the list of acquaintances that only exists in cyberspace. I only talk to her a few times a year, excluding the occasional email or Facebook message exchanged by the two of us. Facebook advertises on its homepage that it “helps you connect and share with the people in your life”. If anything, the ability to connect with others is what social networking is singlehandedly destroying.

Social networking has found its way into worldwide culture, and now has a bolder influence on the modern world than ever before. The internet's massive growth and dominance is mainly fueled off of instant gratification. People want to be able to experience something fulfilling, and have it happen fast. The idea of building relationships with other human beings through nothing but the press of buttons is very satisfying, and is what lures many of the 500 million social networking users into the sites they use every day. In fact, Facebook has grown so much that if it were a country, it would be the third most populated in the world, behind only China and India. In addition, many companies and corporations now use social networking as one of their main advertising strategies, and even take separate measures to advertise their Facebook page alone. Social networking's influence in our society is colossal, and is continuing to grow at an exponential rate.

The internet is taking human interaction to a place it has never been before, and completely redefining the meaning of friendship. Since the beginning of human history, friendship has always existed as a deep bond shared with another person; an unbreakable connection with a fellow human being. A friend was an acquaintance you could share everything with, and be comfortable around no matter the circumstances. There are friends I have on Facebook that I have never even spoken to. The appeal of having a huge database of petty relationships over a few treasured close ones cripples individual welfare by causing many to alter their social lives for the worse. If people have no one to consult about their inner emotions and thoughts, it can negatively affect our psychological well being by making us feel depressed and isolated. Having a close friend to trust when we need it the most is a necessity, and Facebook friends cannot supply such a thing. When using social networking sites, users weaken their social well-being by building a network of dispensable acquaintanceships that amount to nothing in the shadow of a timeless friendship. Although social networking sites promote unity, they are weakening mankind's connection with each other while besmirching the true roots of friendship.

Being an avid Facebook user, I can say that the site is very pleasing. To have the ability to share moments of my life with others from the comfort of my seat is very enjoyable, and to be able to extend my social life in such a way is very convenient. However, technology can never replicate the underlying aspects of human connections associated with friendship. The emails I receive from my grandmother are no substitute for the smiles on our faces at the beach, or the tone in her voice as she detailed moments of her childhood. Technology may advance until it is infinitely as prominent as it is today, but will never simulate the ability of humans to love and sympathize for each other. The true gems of our nature are set in stone, and no matter how skillfully disguised, will never be successfully recreated.

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