Generations: Nourishing meaningful connections through the ages
MANILA – Amihan Ruiz has close to 2,500 friends on Facebook but only talks to a handful of them, admitting that it was impossible to stay in touch with all her online connections.
“Sa ganitong panahon na sobrang complicated na ng needs ng tao, pipiliin mo lang talaga the people that you wanna invest in at ima-maximize mo ‘yun. Otherwise mauubos ka,” the 29-year-old relationship coach said.
(Today, people’s needs are too complicated, and you will really have to choose the people want to invest in, then you maximize that. Otherwise, you’ll burn yourself out.)
British anthropologist Robin Dunbar suggested that people can only have up to 150 actual friends. By studying the ratio between average brain size of non-human primates and their group sizes, he found that there’s a “cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships.”
A person’s brain can accommodate up to 150 meaningful connections, Dunbar argued. This, supposedly, is the number of people one can share quality time with.
ARE ONLINE FRIENDS NOT REAL?
For Ruiz, not all of her connections on social networking sites are actual friends.
“Kakilala ko sila, pero para sa ’kin kasi, ang totoong kaibigan, alam niya ‘yong pinanggalingan mo, naintindihan niya, pero ‘di niya nakikita kung saan mo gustong pumunta. Alam niya ‘yung best interests mo. On or off-screen, kahit walang documentation, alam namin na we got each other,” she told ABS-CBN News’ NXT in a roundtable discussion.
(They’re acquaintances, but for me, a true friend knows where you’re coming from, he understands although he might not know where you’re heading. He knows your best interests. On or off screen, even without documentation, we know we got each other.)
But senior high school student Sylvana Lunario found the opposite to be true -- that social media can form more real friendships. “In social media, sometimes they don’t know who you really are in real life, so they don’t have a prejudice or previous judgment on who you are,” she said.
According to psychiatrist Joan Rifareal, connections nourished through face-to-face interaction has an advantage: personal touch.
“If we talk lang through social media, nawawala ang mga non-verbal behavior like smiling, expressing your emotions, mga non-verbal cues, hand gestures. Nawawala sa context if we just message,” she said.
(If we only talk through social media, we lose sense of non-verbal behavior, like smiling, hand gestures, and other non-verbal cues. The context is lost.)
HOW DID THE OLDER GENERATIONS DO IT?
Before the boom of the internet, one learns of a friend’s predicament through actual conversations, 61-year-old Nick Balajadia recalled. There was also no other recourse but to send letters and wait days for a reply if you wanted to reach out to someone far away, he said.
Even with social media around, Balajadia and his friends, all aged above 60, still prefer to meet up in person to catch up.
“Yung mga senior citizen, naghahanap din ng kausap ‘yan, kasi syempre, ma-edad na sila. Gusto nila magkaroon ng outlet,” he said.
(Senior citizens also look for someone to talk to because of their advanced age. They want to have an outlet.)
While wading in the hot spring pool they usually gather, Balajadia said they usually talk about their health and what keeps them busy.
“Kung meron kang ganitong pinagkakaabalahan, hindi ka maii-stress at saka magwo-work ang mind mo,” he said.
(When you have something like this, you won’t get stressed out and your mind will keep on working.)
COMMUNICATION IS KEY
Ruiz, the relationship coach, said it ultimately boils down to how two people wish to nurture their relationship and settle this between them.
“Alamin mo, ano ‘yong paraan ng pag-ibig na gusto mong matanggap mula sa akin, friend? Gusto mo ba i-like ko lahat ng posts mo…Communication talaga. So ‘wag mag-assume, magtanong. Love kita, paano ko maipapakita, ‘yon?”
(Get to know them. How do you want me to show my love for you? Do you want me to like all your posts?... It’s really communication. Don’t assume; ask. I love you, how do I show it?)