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How Fake Friendships on the Social Media Get in Your Way of Real Friendships

How Fake Friendships on the Social Media Get in Your Way of Real Friendships

I created my Facebook account about 8 years ago. At that time, I have accepted (and rejected) plenty of friend requests. But I still had thousands of friends. For the first time since creating my account, I logged in last week and deleted hundreds of them. Why? Because I didn't have a friendship with any of them.

I love that social media allows us to stay in contact with people we care about, no matter where we live or what time zone we are in. But I don't love the fake connection it can sometimes create. Just because I know someone went on a family vacation last week doesn't mean I would have cared about it if I hadn't seen their pictures in my timeline.

It felt good to purge my friend list of people I didn't truly have relationships with, but then it got a little weird…a few friends texted me asking why my friend list number had dropped. And a few of the people I deleted actually reached out asking what they had done to upset me. I was shocked; why was anyone paying attention to this? I hadn't spoken to the people I deleted in years. And yet, people were noticing. This isn't because I'm some famous internet blogger who the world wants to befriend, but rather a common phenomenon regarding social media: The average person has about double the amount of friends online as they do in real life.[1] But how is that a friendship? And why do we feel connected/important to these strangers?

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We unfriend, unfollow and even block people online, but to their faces, we would act like nothing in the world was wrong. So it got me thinking: perhaps we love the illusion of social media friendships because we can act as we would if (in reality) we were not afraid to confront or interact with people honestly.

We don't know anyone online. No, we really don't.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: your best friend (in real life) has just gotten off the phone with you. The two of you chatted in depth about how torn she is about her relationship and that she may want to break up with her longtime boyfriend. She's crying and it's emotional and you know she's overwhelmed. But when you hang up with her and check Facebook out of habit, you see she just posted a #TBT to a vacation the two of them took together. All the comments are about how cute they are and how happy people are for your friend's relationship to be going so well. She "likes" and replies to all the comments with "Awwww, thank you!" and "Yup, he's pretty amazing!" and you are left feeling utterly confused.

But it makes total sense! We portray the versions of ourselves that we want people to see online. While I will say I've had some social media friends clog my timeline with melodrama, for the most part it's all sunshine and butterflies. While you may know your best friend is actually checking her notifications while crying her eyes out, the rest of her friend list sees a girl who is head over heels in love.

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Social media causes us to have this false feeling of intimacy and closeness with people that we actually know nothing about. Scrolling through our friend's list, we all think we know the person we are connected to online, but would that person call you if something tragic happened? Would you be on the list of phone calls at all? If I was being honest, even with my new, cleaned-up friends list, the answer would still be no.[2]

Beware the false sense of intimacy.

Social media wouldn't be half as fun if we knew every intimate detail about the people on our friend's list. But it is important to know who you are actually connected to, vs. who you are virtually connected to.

Think about the celebrities you follow. Maybe it's your favorite musician and you have been obsessed since before they were even popular. Following them on a social media platform can make you feel close to that person. You know where they love to eat and what their order is because you've seen it on Instagram. You know that their grandparent recently passed away, and although you had never met that person, you grieved as if you had lost a relative. We gain a sense of knowing and closeness even though we don't know one intimate detail.[3]

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Weed out the fake friends to salvage relationships with the real ones.

One of my best friends has asked me a few time in the last year, "Am I still your best friend?" This question always surprises me because it doesn't seem like an insecurity an adult would have. But this question is usually prompted by something I have posted about another friend of mine on social media. It's caused me to think of the word "friend" and how casually I use it.

We're conditioned to refer to virtual friends as such because it's in the name: Friend list. But we've already established most of those people are not truly friends. Not to me anyway. If you're my friend, I want to trust you, confide in you, hang out with you (in real life) and hear your voice-not just see your comments. And if I have made the mistake of getting too caught up in meaningless friendships and putting my real ones on the back burner, that's a problem.

Delete your friends, not your Facebook.

Social media, in my opinion, is a necessary evil. It's fun, it's convenient and it's a great time fill when you're bored or waiting in line at a restaurant. But it should not consume you. Nor should it eliminate true relationships. You don't need to delete all social media accounts (unless of course you want to!), but you should sit down and weed out your friend list. Think of it like tossing out clothes you don't wear anymore. Have you had a real, off-line conversation with that person in 6 months? A year? If not, delete.

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Don't overthink it.

After I deleted hundreds of people, only a couple actually realized and messaged me apologizing for whatever they had done. Even my case is a rarity! Don't think you will hurt someone by deleting them. If you truly aren't close (and you aren't), there's a good chance they won't even notice.

You aren't going to miss out by missing posts.

When you weed out the fake friends on social media, you may have a momentary fear of missing out. But you won't. If the people you are deleting were important enough to you to keep up with, you wouldn't need to delete them! Don't worry about missing those vacation posts or sappy tags to their significant other. Trust me, you're better off without that junk on your timeline!

You may get closer to your real friends by deleting the fakes.

Jolie Choi, an editor at Lifehack deleted about half her friend list. And you know what happened for her? She gained clarity. Not just into her own values, but into the lives of people she really did care about. Without all the people she wasn't even close to spamming her timeline, she was able to catch updates from her actual friends she didn't see as often as she would like. It no doubt gave her opportunity to reach out and catch up. Her friends list may have shrunk, but her relationships grew stronger. And isn't that so much cooler than boasting about how many "friends" you have online?

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

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Heather Poole

Heather shares about everyday lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

The 7 Types of Learners: What Kind of Learner Am I? What If All the Choices You Make Every Day Aren’t What You Need Most? What To Eat (And Not To Eat) When You Are Suffering From Inflammation! Yes Life Can Be Boring Sometimes. But There’re Some Tricks to Make It More Interesting Why Our Personal Values Matter More Than Ever Today

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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