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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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Published on July 13, 2018

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

Striving Towards Secure Attachment: How to Restructure Your Thoughts

What if you could discover some tools and methods that could improve your relationships? What if by gaining a little knowledge you could understand your relationship dynamics better and give them a boost up?

By learning what secure attachment is and how to restructure your thoughts, you can become more self-aware of your relationship dynamics. After becoming more aware, you can then take a few steps to make them better than ever. That’s something that many of us could benefit from.

When we hear the term secure attachment, our mind typically goes to a relationship. And that’s exactly what it’s about.

In this article I’ll discuss the concept of secure attachments in more detail and how restructuring your thoughts can help you strive towards achieving better relationships.

Relationships are a hugely important part of our lives and whatever we can do to improve them is a good thing for everyone involved.

What is attachment theory?

Let’s do a quick overview of what attachment theory is. This will provide a good foundation for the rest of this article.

The esteemed psychologist John Bowlby first coined the term attachment theory in the late 60’s. Bowlby studied early childhood conditioning extensively and what he found was very interesting.

His research showed that when a very young child has a strong attachment to a caregiver, it provides the child with a sense of security and foundation. On the other hand when there isn’t a secure attachment, the child will expend a lot more developmental energy looking for security and stability.

The child without the secure attachment tends to become more fearful, timid and slow to explore new situations or their environment.

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When a strong attachment is developed in a child, he or she will be inclined to be more adventurous and seek out new experiences because they feel more secure. They know that whoever is watching out for them will be there if needed.

Bowlby’s colleague, Mary Ainsworth, took the theory further. She did extensive studies around infant-parent separations and provided a more formal framework for the differing attachment styles.

How attachment develops

Simply put, attachment is an emotional bond with another person. Attachment doesn’t have to go both ways, it can be one person feeling attached to another without it being reciprocated. Most of the time, it works between two people to one degree or another.

Attachment begins at a very young age. Over the history of time, when children were able to maintain a closer proximity to a caregiver that provided for them, a strong attachment was formed.

The initial thought was that the ability to provide food or nourishment to a child was the primary driver of a strong attachment.

It was then discovered that the primary drivers of attachment proved to be the parent/caregivers responsiveness to the child as well as the ability to nurture that child in a variety of ways. Things such as support, care, sustenance, and protection are all components of nurturing a child.

In essence a child forms a strong attachment when they feel that their caregiver is accessible and attentive and there if they need them; that the parent/caregiver will be there for them. If the child does not feel that the caregiver is there to help them when needed, they experience anxiety.

Different types of attachments

In children, 4 types of attachment styles have been identified. They are as follows:

  • Secure attachment – This is primarily marked by discomfort or distress when separated from caregivers and joy and security when the caregiver is back around the child. Even though the child initially feels agitated when the caregiver is no longer around, they feel confident they will return. The return of the parent or caregiver is met with positive emotions, the child prefers parents to strangers.
  • Ambivalent attachment – These children become very distressed when the parent or caregiver leaves. They feel they can’t rely on their caregiver for support when the need arises. Even though a child with ambivalent attachment may be agitated or confused when reunited with a parent or caregiver, they will cling to them.
  • Avoidant attachment – These kids typically avoid parents or caregivers. When they have a choice of being with the parent or not, they don’t seem to care one way or the other. Research has shown that this may be the result of neglectful caregivers.
  • Disorganized attachment – These children display a mix of disoriented behavior towards their caregiver. They may want them sometimes and other times they don’t. This is sometimes thought to be linked to inconsistent behavior from the parent or caregiver.

What attachments mean to adults

So the big question is how does this affect us in adulthood? Intuitively it makes sense that as a child, if we have someone who will be there when we need them, we feel secure. And on the other end of the spectrum, if we aren’t sure someone’s going to provide what we need when we need it, we may become more anxious and fearful.

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As an adult, we tend to wind up in one of three primary attachment types based on our childhood experiences. These are secure, avoidant, and anxious. Technically, there is a fourth one, anxious-avoidant, but it is quite a bit less common. They are described as follows:

  • Secure – When you have a secure attachment, you are comfortable displaying interest and affection towards another person but you’re also fine being alone and independent. Secure types are less apt to obsess over a relationship gone sour and handle being rejected easier. Secure types also tend to be better than other types with not starting relationships with people that might not be the best partners. They cut off the relationship quicker when they see things in a potential partner they don’t like. Secure attachment people make up the majority of the attachment types.
  • Anxious – Folks who have an anxious attachment style typically need a lot of reassurance from their partners. They have a much harder time being on their own and single than the other styles and fall into bad relationships more often. The anxious style represent about 20% of the population. It’s been shown that if anxious attachment styles learn how to communicate their needs better and learn to date secure partners, they can move towards the secure attachment style.
  • Avoidant – Avoidant attachment style represents approximately 25% of the population as adults. Avoidants many times have the hardest time in a relationship because they have a difficult time finding satisfaction. In general, they are uncomfortable with close relationships and intimacy and are quite independent. They are the lone wolf type person.
  • Anxious-avoidant – The anxious-avoidant style is relatively rare. It is composed of conflicting styles – they want to be close but at the same time push people away. They do things that push the people they are closest to away. Many times there can be a higher risk of depression or other mental health issues.

Here’s where it gets really interesting:

Move towards secure attachment

The good news is that it is possible to move from one style to another. Specifically, it is possible to move towards a more secure attachment style.

Now as you might imagine, this is not an easy or a quick process. Like any type of big change where you are attempting to alter such a deeply ingrained mindset, it takes a strong will to accomplish.

The first step is developing an awareness of your attachment style. The next step is to have the desire and drive to move your attachment style towards the more secure style.

If someone with an anxious or avoidant style has a long term relationship with a secure type, the anxious or avoidant person can slowly get brought up more towards a secure style.

The opposite is also true, they could bring the secure person more towards their attachment style. Therefore, you have to be conscious of your type and if you want to move more towards secure, it takes persistence.

Therapy is an option as well. Anxious types many times need to work on their self-esteem, avoidants on their connection specifically and compassion.

How to restructure your thoughts

Ready for the way to do it? Here we go:

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For the Avoidant Style

As with any type of change on such a deep level, the first step is awareness. Realize you have an avoidant style and be aware of it as you have interactions with your partner(s).

Try to work towards a place of mutual support and giving/taking. Try to lessen your need for complete self-reliance. Allow your partner to do some things that make you a little uncomfortable that you would normally do yourself.

Don’t always focus on the imperfections of your partner. We all have them, remind yourself of that.

Make yourself a list of the qualities that your partner has that you are thankful for.

Look for a secure style partner if at all possible, they would be good for you to be with.

If you have a tendency to end relationships before they go too far, be aware of that and let it develop further.

Get into the habit of accepting and even instigating physical touch. Tell yourself that it’s good for you to have some intimacy. Intimacy can help you feel safe and secure.

And over time you can realize that it’s okay to rely on other people.

For the Anxious Style

For the anxious style, the #1 thing to work on is learning to communicate needs better. This is a huge issue for the anxious style.

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First and foremost if you communicate your needs more clearly, you will have less anxiety, that’s already a big win. This will also allow you to better assess if a potential partner is good for you.

Try to bring your feelings more to the surface and most importantly, share them with your partner. Remember that secure attachments typically communicate pretty well, this is what you are working towards.

For the Anxious-Avoidant Style

The anxious-avoidant is a very small percentage of the attachment styles. Since this type tends to be anxious in the relationship AND more or less a loner, the key here is working hard to be very self-aware of your actions.

Use the parts of striving towards secure attachment from the anxious tips and the avoidant restructuring of your thoughts to consciously work towards being more secure.

When you find yourself pushing someone away, ask why. If you feel worried that your partner is going to leave you, again, ask yourself where this is coming from. Have they shown you any reason to believe this? Many times there is no real evidence. In that case, allow yourself to calm down and try not to obsess over it.

For the Secure Style

Since the goal is to move towards a more secure attachment style, there isn’t much needed here as you might imagine.

Something to be aware of is being in a relationship just because it’s “okay”. Don’t stay if it’s not a good place for you and your partner. If your partner is of an anxious or avoidant attachment style, stay mindful to not start developing characteristics of those styles.

Strive towards Secure Attachment

As we wrap things up, you’ve probably developed a good idea of the benefits of secure attachment. If you don’t currently have a secure attachment style, here are some benefits of restructuring your thoughts more towards this style:

  • Positive self esteem and self image
  • Close and well adjusted relationships
  • Sense of security in self and the world
  • Ability to be independent as well as in relationships
  • Optimistic outlook on life and yourself
  • Strong coping skills and strategies for relationships and life
  • Trust in self and others
  • Close, intimate relationships
  • Strong determination and problem solving skills

If you are an anxious or avoidant style or the combination of anxious-avoidant, it is possible to move towards a secure attachment style.

It takes self-awareness, patience and a strong desire to get close to being secure but it can be done. You will find that putting the effort into it will provide you with more open, honest and satisfying relationships.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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