Facebook friends are far better than neighbours | Daily News

Facebook friends are far better than neighbours

  •  Jon Lawrence is associate history professor at the University of Exeter
  • He believes people have freedom to choose who to forge connections with now
  • This has led to stronger and more meaningful relationships than those in the past
  • In postwar years, people were stuck with their families and neighbours
  • He believes social media has ‘enormous potential for social connection’

The virtual generation has more meaningful relationships than those of the face-to-face generation, according to a cultural historian. Jon Lawrence, associate history professor at the University of Exeter, believes social media friends are better for us than neighbours because we get to choose them.

He said in the past, communities were forged by proximity which often resulted in feuding neighbours and families, with nowhere else to turn. But now, people have much more freedom to choose who they do and do not want to connect with, leading to a larger and stronger group of friends, Professor Lawrence told The Times.

This means that virtual relationships can be stronger than real life ones from years past. He said: ‘There is enormous potential for social connection present in these technologies. We need to think in a joined-up way about how [social media] can allow people to connect in the way that they wish.There is a danger that we get wedded to this idea that it has to be about face-to-face relations that are based on proximity and on a very mythological view of what community was.’

The historian has studied interviews conducted with hundreds of people in post-war communities across Britain. His findings will be published in his book Me, Me, Me? The Search for Community in Post-War England.

The professor believes people used to keep to themselves a lot more to avoid trouble and were wary of their neighbours. This led to people relying more on family members but their proximity could make relationships fraught. He believes a small distance is healthy to build happy and mutual relationships. Social networks have been criticised for engendering isolation, bullying and poor mental health.

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