February 10, 2011
Is the concept of friendship dying in our modern culture?
I was thinking of Dan Lentz's recent blog post about Relationship vs. Friendship when I came across an interesting quote from The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Here it is:
[Concerning] the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement, that has been lost. We have ceased to believe that a friend's highest purpose is to summon us to the good by offering moral advice and correction. We practice, instead, the nonjudgmental friendship of unconditional acceptance and support—"therapeutic" friendship, [to quote] Robert N. Bellah's scornful term.
We seem to be terribly fragile now. A friend fulfills her duty, we suppose, by taking our side—validating our feelings, supporting our decisions, helping us to feel good about ourselves. We tell white lies, make excuses when a friend does something wrong, do what we can to keep the boat steady. We're busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free….
With the social-networking sites of the new century—Friendster and MySpace were launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004—the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook's very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they're not in the same place, or, rather, they're not my friends. They're a superficial likeness or semblance of my friends—little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets.
Boom! Tough stuff, huh? The author of that piece is a man named William Deresiewicz, and I'm wondering if you agree with him or not.
Deresiewicz concluded by saying: "Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves."
Does he hit the nail on the head, or is he exaggerating? And what are the implications for small groups based on what he is saying? I would love your thoughts.
posted by Sam O'Neal on February 10, 2011 8:54 PM