Technology has enhanced the ability for this generation of TCKs to maintain long-term relationships with others no matter where in the world they are. This can be both a huge asset and also a potential pitfall. Third Culture Kids live a mobile lifestyle and live in a world where others around them are also constantly coming and going. This continuous exchange of people makes it difficult for TCKs to develop deep friendships both logistically (because either they or their new friend may leave before the relationship deepens) and emotionally (they begin to fear attempting a deep relationship because there is a high chance that they or their friend will leave).
Social media seems to be a good solution to this problem.
TCKs can make friends and even when they (or their friend) leave, keep up with them on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or a plethora of other social media platforms. This, in some ways, eliminates the reasons TCKs find to not pursue friendships because a long-distance friendship is now easy. However, it also increases, the common TCK problem of forgoing deep friendships.
Social media becomes a great way to have 1,000 surface-level friendships with people all across the globe without the risk of being emotionally hurt by someone leaving yet again.
To the TCK who has been hurt, this may sound like a great option. They may even do this subconsciously. TCKs are notoriously great at the beginning stages of relationships. Thus, they are prone to making friends easily, “friending” them on Facebook, and never allowing those friendships to become real, deep relationships. Social media makes friendship safe for TCKs because they don’t have to go deep in order to be “friends” and to keep up with each other’s lives from the other side of the globe. Social media can be a huge asset to 21st century TCKs, but it is so important that it doesn’t also become a tool for keeping friendships at a safe, surface level. This does not mean that TCKs need to be, or should be, “deep” friends with everyone or that they need to have a significant number of deep friendships, but, it is critical to their well-being that they have at least a handful of people who truly know and love them.
If you are raising TCKs, encourage them to be intentional about developing deep friendships with people locally. Once they have those deep friendships, those relationships can be fostered and continued on through the use of social media if they or their friend move away. Because it can be easy (and often feels safer) for TCKs to spend their time on social media with acquaintances and simply add more people to their “friends” list instead of working to develop deep friendships, it is critical that, as parents, you actively encourage them to step out of their comfort zone and let people really get to know them. While there is always a risk of your child or your child’s friend moving away, there is a bigger risk to never developing real, deep friendships. Thankfully, social media is available to allow those friendships to continue even if it, one day, has to be long-distance.