Friendship in the modern world is a funny thing – especially for those born in the millennial generation. Countless commentaries exist detailing why friendship, specifically for this group of people, is often a maze of unnatural interactions and endless back-and-forth scheduling attempts leading to little more than surface-level relationships.
However, the real problem with 21st century friendship is not the Internet. It is not our obsession with our phones. It is not communication issues stemming from a lack of personal social interaction. These things are certainly issues of their own that may or may not need addressing. The real underlying issue, however, is something so much simpler and exponentially deeper than most of the problems for which we blame our social pitfalls.
It all comes down to one, terrifying word: Vulnerability.
Vulnerability is the practice of allowing your guard to come down in order to let those around you witness the truest version of yourself. There is something simultaneously delicate and strengthening about being vulnerable that helps us “super-charge” relationships. Vulnerability is the bedrock principle of friendship, after all. Exposing a version of yourself without walls to another person is the ultimate offering of trust, and it lets them know that you value their friendship more than you value your own pride.
The problem with the way we interact with each other in the technological world is not the technology itself – but it is that technology allows us to cut vulnerability out of the equation altogether. We can have entire conversations via text, email or social media, which are often crafted word-by-word, that help us avoid making mistakes or saying things that may compromise our status. We don’t have to admit our shortcomings or ask for help as often because we have an entire database of information right at our fingertips, allowing us to “fake it ‘til we make it.”
Not only that, but through social media, we have the ability to paint a picture of our lives exactly the way we want others to perceive us. Even friends and family rely primarily on our social pages to keep up with what’s going on in our lives – and we can tell the world whatever story we want.
Every person has become the most successful, beautiful and happy version of themselves possible – because whoever we are online is the real “us,” right?
Vulnerability is missing from our lives, and we desperately need to take it back in order to save our relationships and friendships from falling apart.
In a Q&A article in Forbes Magazine online, Dr. Brené Brown of the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and author of New York Times bestselling book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, she says, “Most of us don’t trust perfect and that’s a good instinct.”
Is trust not the universally-accepted foundation of all relationships? How can we trust those who we do not see fault in? To quote Romans 3:23, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As humans, we are all epically flawed. It is inherent knowledge for every person, I think, to realize that there are no perfect people. And therefore, if we cannot pinpoint anything imperfect or wrong about another human, our gut tells us not to trust that person.
To stretch my logic here, if the majority of people are attempting to display a perfect version of themselves to others, how can trust take root?
So, how do we overcome this seemingly intrinsic flaw in our primary form of communication with one another? It is certainly easier said than done. Now, I am not advising that everyone go and air all their baggage out on every social platform for the world to see. That also defeats the purpose of building stronger one-on-one relationships, which is the goal, after all. All I am saying is that within personal conversations, we should all start taking our walls down, brick by brick.
Admit what scares you. Tell your friends about your recent failures. Ask for help.
These are the small, but mighty steps toward destroying pride so that vulnerability may rise from its ashes and serve as the solid foundation on which to create real, lasting bonds that are so much more than one-dimensional.
Food photographers often use mashed potatoes in place of ice cream during shoots to maintain the aesthetic integrity of the subject. But, when asked to choose between a perfect, beautiful cone full of potatoes and a sticky, lop-sided cone full of real ice cream – I’m almost positive I know which one we would all choose. To choose vulnerability in relationships is to choose ice cream over potatoes.
Isn’t it time we treat ourselves?