Greenwood: Social media warps and falsifies friendship

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It doesn’t seen to matter whether students are in the classroom or not, many will be using their phones in order to stay on top of their Snapstreaks.

In case you don’t know what a Snapstreak is, it is the number of consecutive days you have chatted with someone on the social media platform Snapchat.

It can be fun to post pictures and videos to communicate with your friends, but I admit I got bored of it quickly and the app did not stay long on my phone.

However, for the younger generation, Snapchat has turned into a way to measure how close your friendships are. The longer your Snapstreak, the better friend you are.

I have heard of the pressures felt when someone doesn’t respond to a snap within 24 hours. It has become a mortal sin to some — so much so that I have seen teenagers turn down the opportunity to travel overseas because they will lose their Snapstreaks.

The simple way around this problem is to give your Snapchat account to someone you trust to keep the streak going for you, but to me that seems like cheating.

And in all seriousness, why are we giving up wonderful opportunities in our younger years over a Snapstreak?

It comes down to peer pressure and fitting in.

Not only that, but gone are the days when the social problems of school stayed at school. Students are now bringing them home on their mobile devices.

The problem began with Facebook and the desire to have the most friends, but it has now turned into who is the better friend measured by a number on a mobile app.

Ethicist Tristan Harris has gone so far as to say Snapchat is an unethical app design. According to him, it has exploited psychological vulnerabilities of users.

I tend to agree with him, especially when it comes to basic social skills and friendships.

Jesus gave us the definition of a true friend when he said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

The book of Proverbs also gives advice about friendship — a friend loves at all times; to have a friend, one must be a friend.

There is also the biblical example of true friendship between David and Jonathan. Even though Jonathan’s father wanted to kill David, Jonathan stood by his friend.

Their friendship was measured by what they did for one another. Jonathan protected David from his father while David promised Jonathan he would be second-in-command when David became king.

Unfortunately, Jonathan did not live long enough to see David become king and David deeply mourned his death.

David and Jonathan give us an example of a healthy, non-sexual, but still deep friendship. And they didn’t measure their friendship by a Snapstreak.

Friendship should never be based on a number, but instead on how you help one another.

If you think the Snapstreak concept is ridiculous, I want to tell you it’s reality for many teenagers. There is a lot of social pressure to keep up a Snapstreak and it has given a false idea of friendship.

So may we demonstrate through our lives that friendship is not based on a number, but instead on how you help each other. In doing so, may the younger generation learn what true friendship is without pressures from social media.

Jamie Greenwood is lead pastor of Faith Pentecostal Assembly in Glencoe. 

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