What is social life?

The perception of what constitutes friendship, social life and reality may be completely different from one generation to the next.

As I was lecturing at a conference for teachers a while ago, I met another lecturer that told me an illustrating story related to different perceptions of social life and friendship. As father of a teenager in secondary school, they met on a Friday afternoon in order to have dinner together.


During the dinner, the father asked his son about his plans for Friday night. “I will hang out with my friends,” the son replied. A quite normal and expected response, it seemed, in the ears of the father. Dinner was over, and the boy went into his room, closing the door behind him. Afternoon became night, and, as far as the father could see, the boy stayed in his room. Friday night went by, and Saturday morning came. Then they met for a late breakfast.


The father was concerned about what he felt was his son’s lack of a social life: “You told me yesterday afternoon that you were going to meet with your friends – and then you go into your room, turn off the light, and sit there all night staring into your computer?” As far as the father was concerned, this was no proper Friday night at all, just a lonely life – like living in a cave.

“But I did meet my friends!” his son replied. “I chatted with them all night long on MSN, and we played the game World of Warcraft together online. It was a very social evening, and great fun too!”

When the father told me this story from their everyday life, I realised how totally different the two generations perceived the same situation. The father: My son is completely lonesome, staring into a screen all night, this is getting serious. The son: Very social night, very fun.

Was one of them wrong, or did they just perceive friendship, social life and reality in different ways?