Shrinking social groups

It occurred to me last night that without the real world of middle school, it’s harder for my tween to grow in that very awkward but also useful social world.

Yes, she’s keeping up with her friends in video chats and by texting, but it’s just her group. There are no virtual world opportunities (for my daughter, anyway) to just meet new people or develop new friendships with people she was only acquaintances with.

At school, she would have her friends, but she would also be thrown into circumstances outside of her control. Teachers would assign her to project groups with or without her friends. She would join school activities that interested her where she might meet other kids interested in the same types of activities. She might also just strike up a conversation with someone new at lunch hour.

All these situations are the seeds of new relationships. Nothing may come from any of them, but something may.

And in her new virtual social life, she has only the friends she has made up to this point.

They will become tight friends in some cases, having shared this strange time together. And some friendships will dissolve under the pressure of learning new ways to communicate when body language and transparency are harder to express.

It’s a shrinking social world in some ways. Much good can be found in the technology that we’re using to stay connected in this time of physical distancing. But we have to be prepared for the good to be different from what we’ve ever had before.

Yes, we’ve been connected digitally for years now. But we’ve had the advantage of disconnecting digitally and meeting face-to-face. And I think we need that. But we are entering uncharted waters. There is no disconnecting digitally anymore unless you want to be alone. Nothing wrong with that. But it is true aloneness.

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