Aristotle’s Facebook status: Get Lost
Do social networking and technology favor the nurturing of friendships or do they favor isolation? As the movie “The Social Network” (2010) came out five years ago, writers and thinkers took the opportunity to open the debate of whether technology and social networking businesses such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, or MySpace have redefined what friendship means. In their Huffington Post editorial entitled “The Meaning of Friendship in a Social Networked World”  Pattakos and Dundon focus on the tagline of the movie, “You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies” to reveal that Zuckerberg and Savarin used to be best friends before their legal dispute over ownership of the company shares erupted. As we’re increasingly connected with technology, we are “losing other more meaningful relationships, we’re losing our friends” . Pattakos and Dundon explain that “the joys of real human contact are being replaced with electric stimuli and shallow friendships”. Further, according to research, Pattakos and Dundon report that the “average American has only two close friends and some twenty-five percent don’t have any friends”. This is a very concerning and important state of affairs, and the aim of the present editorial is to revive this important debate with additional data and recent sources until the next movie on social networking makes it fashionable again.
Ekhart Tolle, the author of the well acclaimed book “the Power of Now”, explains his view on Facebook  as a forum where people can have a second persona. This persona is successful and happy and posts pretty pictures making it look good. It seems that, when one has the blues, logging on Facebook is the worst possible idea to pursue as one will be exposed to wonderful pictures of scrumptious meals, successful and above average children, job promotions and all kinds of goodies that our friends’ second Facebook personae have achieved. Tolle cautions however that true friendship requires to be true to yourself. It doesn’t help to fake you are someone else. Yet is is what most people do on Facebook.
In his 2000 book entitled “Bowling Alone”, Putnam “draws on evidence including nearly 500,000 interviews over the last quarter century to show that we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often. We’re even bowling alone”. Robert Putnam shows that there has been a decline of “social capital” in our western society and we do more and more activities alone. “More Americans are bowling than ever before, but they are bowling alone” . It seems that as our society evolves rapidly and more and more technology is available to us to communicate with each other in various ways, we have lost touch with our roots and what human contact truly means.
A famous quote attributed to the Greek philosopher Aristotle goes as follows: “What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies”. Aristotle did write extensively about friendship in “Ethics” and believed it was essential to living a full life: ”Friendship: because, in the first place, it is either itself a virtue or connected with virtue and next it is a thing most necessary for life, since no one would choose to live without friends though he should have all the other good things in the world”. According to Aristotle, having meaningful friendships is extremely important. It is much more important than possessing wealth, power or influence: “and in fact, men who are rich or possessed of authority and influence are thought to have special need of friends, for where is the use of such prosperity if there be taken away the doing of kindnesses” .
Speaking of prosperity, “the greater it is so much the more slippery and hazardous: in poverty moreover and all other adversities men think friends to be their only refuge.” (Book VIII of “Ethics” in “Aristotle: Complete Works, Historical Background, and Modern Interpretation of Aristotle's Ideas”). The friendship Aristotle contemplates is deep and more significant than any other possessions one may have. As much of Silicon Valley is obsessed with the single minded goal of acquiring more and more wealth, we might want to pause and ponder on what Aristotle wrote two millennia ago.
Pattakos, Alex and Dundon, Elaine. “The Meaning of Friendship in a Social Networked World”. Huffington Post, Oct 10, 2010. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alex-pattakos/the-meaning-of-friendship_b_761740.html
Tolle, E. “What do you think of Facebook” June 2015 public speech http://acimlounge.ning.com/video/what-do-you-think-about-facebook-eckhart-tolle-june-2015-ettv
Putnam, Robert “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000, publishers.
Aristotle. “Aristotle: Complete Works, Historical Background, and Modern Interpretation of Aristotle's Ideas” ASIN: B00IHG05N6, Annotated Classics publisher, February 15, 2014