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The Lonely Cyborg

How the old and the young navigate friendships through new technology today. History concluded by Dr Thomas Dixon. From 2014.

Dr Thomas Dixon brings his major series on the changing face of friendship to a close with a look at how the old and the young are navigating their friendships today through technologies old and new, and at how friendship might look in the future.

A group of Birmingham schoolgirls prove themselves thoughtful and self-aware about how to conduct their friendships online and about the differences between online and face-to-face friendships. Professor Deborah Chambers, an authority on social media and personal relationships from the University of Newcastle, confirms that fears about children's online friendships with strangers have been exaggerated.

At the other end of the life-span, Thomas Dixon speaks with the writer Penelope Lively about friendship in her ninth decade, and about why she likes to consider herself part of "the landline generation".

Closing the series, Thomas Dixon emphasizes the importance of physical touch and presence for friendship, and presents a final montage of the voices which have featured throughout the series, sharing stories of their own friendships.

Producer: Beaty Rubens

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in April 2014.

Available now

15 minutes

Last on

Saturday 02:15

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Related Reading

danah boyd, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (Yale University Press, 2014)

Deborah Chambers, Social Media and Personal Relationships: Online Intimacies and Networked Friendship (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Penelope Lively, Ammonites and Leaping Fish: A Life in Time (Fig Tree, 2013)

Tom Standage, Writing on the Wall: Social Media - The First 2,000 Years (Bloomsbury, 2013)

The History of Emotions blog

Read specially commissioned blog posts supporting this series.

Deborah Chambers, ‘Online friendship’ 


Beaty Rubens, ‘What makes friendships last?’


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