The Greeks distinguish four separate types of love: agape, philia, eros, and storge. All four are defined differently but they all are based on the love felt in a certain type of relationship. Agapic love is the love between god and person. Philic love is considered that which is between friends and often demonstrated in affection. Erotic love is passionate and sexual. Storgic love is between parent and child. I mention these different types of love because love grows out of relationship but in today’s media obsessed culture where it’s possible to have a thousand “friends”, have our relationships lost their meaning? We can talk to our friends across oceans and mountains but has this level of contact really brought us closer or has it conditioned us to believe a like on Facebook is a fair trade for friendship?
To give some perspective one of my best friends lives in Thailand. We’ve known each other for close to 7 years and I can say with absolute surety that we would not be as close as we are today if we weren’t able to stay connected through Facebook. On the other hand, we keep in contact because our friendship is based on more than the occasional Facebook like. In fact we often joke that our friendship is centered on food but that’s a story for another post. Intuitively I can read the sarcasm in his messages and he can read my mood, but I’d argue that if our relationship were based purely in media we wouldn’t know how to read the subtext that reveals our friendship. We are close because we know each other on a cellular level and that’s something that media established relationships simply can’t compete with.
I’m not so arrogant to say that media denigrates the word relationship but it does change it. If everyone on my Facebook page or Twitter feed is my friend then I have to seriously consider my definition of friend. Is it a relationship grounded and grown in love or is it merely a way to show off when I’m having fun and garner sympathy when I’m down and out. I can’t answer this question empirically, therefore, I can’t say whether or not my relationships are made more complex or are deepened by media. What I can say is media helps me to maintain relationships I have already established in the “real world” and for that I am grateful.