International Day of Friendship
- BIK Team
As every year, on 30 July we celebrate the UN International Day of Friendship, created at the initiative of UNESCO and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 2011. Its aim is to foster friendship and counter the increasingly divisive attitudes encountered worldwide, either as a result of military and political conflict or by prejudice and discriminatory practices.
Being intrinsically social animals, the wellbeing of human beings is extremely dependent on their integration into a community, on the harmony of their network and fulfillment of their social lives. As 13 Reasons Why, a recent and highly popular drama series for teenagers demonstrates, friendship, alongside love and the sense of belonging to a community rate high among the greatest concerns in most young people's lives.
Technically speaking, technology has made communication and keeping in touch with family, friends and other members of one's social circles so much easier. At the touch of a button, one can contact virtually anyone, even those living on the other side of the world. Paradoxically, however, despite our hyper-connectedness achieved thanks to modern means of communication, we have never been lonelier than we are today. So much so, that psychologists and anthropologists have called loneliness a modern epidemic; a societal disease which studies have shown to increase the risk of early death by 26 per cent.
But how can one be lonely when s/he boasts hundreds of "friends" on their social media profiles? Modern technology has allowed us to become citizens of the world: we have friends on four different continents and can interact with anyone we want - the world is at our fingertips! Yet so many of us remain unsatisfied, depressed, with an uncanny feeling of inadequacy - feelings increasingly fueled by excessive use of social media, which appear to trigger anxiety, depression and a sense of isolation in teens.
The internet is undeniably a fantastic tool: a virtually endless source of information, entertainment and means of communication, but it is crucial to emphasise its darker side, as a serious source of isolation and a perfect breeding ground for abuse, cyberbullying or ill-intentioned individuals targeting vulnerable people.
Here at the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, we address a wide array of the issues concerning today's youth: starting from cyberbullying, online relationships, sextortion, online privacy and much more. We believe digital skills are essential for a happy and successful life, and media literacy plays a crucial role in ensuring that any abuse is avoided. To provide examples of just a few of the resources available on our portal we invite you to:
- watch this video addressing the issue of online friendships (HU).
- see this video raising awareness about neglecting real life relationships in favour of online interaction (SL).
- constantly review your "social networks" by following this decision tree.
In our increasingly individualistic and divisive societies, friendship could be the cure for many societal ills. For this very reason, we invite you to take this day to contact an old friend with whom you've lost contact, to go out of your comfort zone and meet someone new (safely!) and – why not – even clean your social media contact list of any irrelevant or unwanted "friends".
Finally, remember that today is a day to celebrate togetherness and being there for one another, by keeping an open eye and contributing to a better online and offline society because Every decision matters.