Social Media Friends Aren’t Real Friends
At 16, Mpho Modisha had always watched from a distance as her friends went out to parties. She would often see the pictures they posted on Facebook and wished she could enjoy the experience too. She tells us about a fun night that could have turned bad.
Born and raised in Gugulethu, Mpho and her two brothers (23 and 13) have a good solid family life, albeit having a strict father who is a priest.
“My dad was especially strict with me, but my brothers were given a lot more freedom. I felt unfairly treated, mostly with issues related to going out with friends. My younger brother had a later curfew than me. I know my father loved me, but I felt he had double standards.”
“Because my dad is a priest, the community knows who we are, so I’m always aware of that. I feel pressure that I need to behave in a certain manner to meet the expectations of everyone.”
Feeling as though her freedom was limited and that she was missing out on what was happening socially, Mpho kept abreast with friends via social media, particularly Facebook.
“I really enjoyed being on Facebook, seeing what people were doing, what parties were happening… there is always something new and interesting. Over time, I made lots of friends even though I never met many in person.”
Beside Facebook monitoring, Mpho had an older friend that would tell her about parties. This made her yearn to go to one of these gatherings.
“On one occasion, my friend saw an upcoming event posted on Facebook. She decided to go and kept telling me that I should join her. I was also excited, so I didn’t need too much convincing.”
“The party was far from where I was staying, but my friend told me that she would sort everything out for us – she would get us lifts to the party and back. She told me I shouldn’t worry about it, everything would be fine. I was excited to meet new people and so curious for the experience… to hear the music, dance all night and to experience a vibrant place. This was the first time I was going to a party and I was sure my father would say no, so I had to work out a plan.”
Mpho said that everything seemed to work in her favour as her parents were going to a conference on that same night.
“I never told my parents about the party. At the time I didn’t feel bad about lying because I was only thinking about the fun I would have. I also thought that all my life I had been a good girl who had listened to her parents. I couldn’t wait for the day, and when it finally arrived I was prepared. A few days before the party I had already decided what outfit I would wear, so on the day as soon as my parents left I got ready. I thought I would be home before them so I thought everything was under control.”
“We took a taxi to the party. My friend told me she was used to doing this and that I shouldn’t worry.”
While at the party, Mpho never doubted her decision to go.
“It was an amazing experience, the colours, the banners - it was all beautiful! To be part of it was fantastic, meeting people that I only knew from Facebook was great. I felt like I was finally experiencing life. The DJs and the music were awesome, I felt so good! I never thought I would actually go to a party, so I couldn’t believe I was there.”
“Before I knew it, the party had ended and that’s when things turned sour. My friend had originally said that she would arrange a lift for us, but it turned out she had lied and was hoping that she could arrange something while we were at the party. We asked many people, and they all said they couldn’t help. I panicked, because I knew that my parents would be home soon and they would see that I wasn’t there.”
“I was panicking that I was going to get caught. I saw a group of guys that I only knew on Facebook. They were in a minibus and most of the them had girlfriends, so I thought I would be safe. I just wanted to get home before my parents, so I never thought twice. I asked for a lift and just jumped in. My friend with whom I had gone to the party was not around, as she was trying to sort something out, but I couldn’t wait anymore. In that moment I wasn’t scared, I was desperate.”
“I was sitting at the back on the floor of the minibus because it was full. On the way to Gugulethu, the guys started talking and saying that they were not done partying. They decided to go to town, and I remember grabbing my knees and shrivelling because I was afraid about what was going to happen.”
Finding her voice in that moment was difficult, but Mpho says that she knew she had to say something.
“I raised my voice and told them I couldn’t go with them. But they ignored me, one of them even shouted at me and said I was stupid and I should just shut up and go with them. I kept quiet, but then got scared because I realised that I didn’t know them at all and that they could really hurt me. I knew I had put myself in that situation, and that I needed to get myself out of it.”
“I yelled at them to take me to Gugs before going to town. They weren’t very happy about that and they made me know it because they started swearing at me. Luckily one of them told the others to calm down, and just take me home.”
“When we got to Gugs they just dropped me in the street and it was very far from my home. It was past 1:00 in the morning and there were no taxis or people in the street. It was the scariest moment of my life. I knew it was an unsafe area and I needed to do something fast.”
With a heavy heart and a quiver in her voice, Mpho knew there was only one thing that she could do.
“I decided to call my father and tell him about what had happened. Luckily he answered the phone. He was sleeping, and when he answered I could hear in his voice that he was angry. He asked me many questions but I told him that I was alone and scared. He stopped asking questions and said he was on his way.”
“When I got home, my mom was sitting on the couch and crying because she was so worried. They said that they were disappointed in me because I had lied to them, but they were happy that I was okay. My mom told me that I must talk to them when I want to go out somewhere. I told them that I was certain they would say I couldn’t go.”
Mpho then got a surprising reply from her parents.
“My parents told me that I should feel comfortable talking to them about anything and be able to communicate my needs with them. They said that their role is not to spoil my life but rather to love me, make sure I have the best and keep me safe.”
Mpho says that she knows the experience could have ended badly, and that she is more aware of her decisions going forward. She also adds that her communication with her parents has improved drastically.
Mpho concludes by saying, “This experience has taught me to reconsider the meaning of friendship. When I was in trouble I realised that those whom I thought were my friends were nowhere to be found. My parents became my real friends during this struggle. I am aware that my parents are an exception and many young people are not as fortunate as me. So choose your friends carefully as true friends will be next to you during easy and difficult times.”
Mpho is a Leaders’ Quest participant.