The children’s cable channel Noggin has an ad campaign stating, “They just learn best when they’re with their best friends.” (I looked for the ad online but can’t find it – if anyone else can, please post the link here or send it to me!) The adults delivering the lines are thrilled to talk about what their children are learning, but I can’t get past the fact that a channel is touting its fictional characters as children’s “best friends.” It makes me sad for those children – can’t they make any real friends?
Then I realize that I sometimes feel like I know television characters better than real people. Watching them interact is less messy than making real friends– they are always doing something interesting, no one has hurt feelings when someone else makes a funny but hurtful remark, and I never have to worry about finding the right thing to say or do in awkward or difficult circumstances. Plus my television friends are never too busy to hang out with me. It’s easier to have pretend friends than to make real ones.
I can’t say whether having television friends is the cause or effect of having fewer or shallower real friendships, but hearing fictional people called “best friends” is a great reminder that I need to get my kids and myself out more. We need to get to know real people with real joys and real hurts.