Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Social Media Friends vs "Real" Friends

From Bilbo's Department of Shameless Plagiarism of Good Ideas comes today's post, inspired by fellow blogger John's post from last Saturday.

In his post, John ruminated on the differences between the friendships we maintain on social media and the friendships based on close and in-person contact. In John's view, social media relationships aren't "real" relationships, and we shouldn't have the people we routinely see every day as social media friends, because they deserve more personal contact ... we should have live conversations with them, face to face, and reserve the social media-level of friendship for those who are separated from us by great distance, or who are not necessarily our closest and warmest friends.

I sort of agree with that. Right now, I have 220 "friends" on Facebook, which is my primary social media outlet (I have a Twitter account, but almost never use it). Of that 220 number, probably about a third are people I've either never met in person or met once at a party or conference, and probably wouldn't recognize if we encountered each other on the street ... although I'd probably enjoy actually meeting and getting to know most of them. 

My 220 social media (Facebook) friends fall into the following general groups:

Members of my extended family (brothers, sister, children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and so on);

High School and college friends with whom I've gotten re-acquainted (and in some cases, acquainted for the first time);

Dance friends from our time as active ballroom dancers and competitors;

Former work colleagues, including people I got to know because we rode the commuter bus together every day for many years;

Blogging friends (a fair number of whom I've actually met face-to-face - among them Andrea, Mike, Kathy, Birgitta, and Peggy, or by phone or exchange of snail mail - like Amanda from sunny Australia); and,

Friends of friends (people who have initiated contact with me because of things I've posted that they've seen on their friends' Facebook pages or blogs). This is a relatively small, but slowly growing group.

While I greatly prefer to enjoy my friendships up close and personal, I've found social media (Facebook, in the main) to be a great way to maintain contact and share information with friends and relatives who live at a great distance. It keeps us connected as much or as little as we wish to be, and it's a good way to prevent the sort of profound shock that often happens when we run into people we haven't seen for years ... what I think of as the "you're WHO???" reaction. In fact, that's how I got started on Facebook - when my high school class had its 40th reunion back in 2009, one of the organizers encouraged all of us to set up Facebook pages and post a few recent photos so we'd sort of recognize each other when we got together. Most of us did, and kept going, and it's been great fun.

One of the more recent problems is that much of the political anger and divisiveness that has ruptured the country has spilled over into the social media world. I've always been pretty outspoken about my political views in my blog and on Facebook, and I've engaged in a fair amount of heated discussion with various friends on FB, but so far nothing has yet reached the point where it's become nasty and vituperative* ... I've not yet felt the urge to "unfriend" anyone. I have both liberal and conservative friends, but most of them are reasonable and rational people with whom I don't mind the volley of competing ideas. Those who disagree with me are wrong, of course, and they think I am ... but we manage to remain friends.

But getting back to John's original blog post on this topic, here's a quote I don't think he'll mind me using:

"I'm actually more interested in meeting the people that read this blog and write their own personal blogs more than I am in meeting many of the people that follow on various forms of social media."

This is true. While it's nice to be able to keep up with the activities of our friends, it's even better to sit down once in a while over a coffee or lunch or dinner and really get to know one another. Of course, if we actually met in person, we might not recognize each other, given that we tend to be ... um ... generously selective with the profile photos we choose.

Bottom line: while I agree with John that "real" friends are better, I'm not likely to give up my "virtual" Facebook friends just yet. In any case, what we think of today as "social media" is not that much different from the concept of the "pen pal" that those of us of a certain age will remember. I like to think that my friendship with Amanda in Brisbane, Australia - whom I'm never likely to meet in person - is any less warm because we've carried it out through the exchange of blog posts, snail mail and one memorable phone call.

Have a good day, whether live or on social media.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Snide and snarky, yes, but I can live with that.


Amanda said...

I still have hopes of meeting face to face one day :)
I have found it incredibly enriching to have you as my virtual/blogging friend.

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

I began to leave my thoughts and read Amanda's comment and I felt bad that mine was much less profound so I deleted it. :-)

KathyA said...

I've been blessed with making 'real' friends from those virtual. And what, in the 50s and 60s, people feared would separate and dehumanize us, has actually managed to make this a truly smaller world.

Mike said...

One of these days Claudia and I will make it back to DC. Or we'll all track down Amanda at a clogging event when she's in the US.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Idon't find it necessary to distinguish between †he two. Admittedly, my social media consists of my blog and the others I go to.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Why distinguish between the two? We all need more friends and contact with others.