Thursday, July 3, 2014

Is It Possible to Have a Real Friend on Social Media?

I've seen a few comments lately about whether the friends you make on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter are really friends. They question whether you can have a meaningful relationship with someone you've never met, and are likely never to meet. Some say yes, others say no. I'd say the people you meet through social media are pretty much like the people you meet in 'real life': a collection of folks who stay with you through thick and thin, those whose company you enjoy on an occasional basis, those who run at the first sign of trouble, and those who simply are trouble.


Although I've lived in big cities and traveled pretty widely, I'm somewhat naive when it comes to meeting people and making friends. (If you were traveling on the London Underground between 1999 and 2007, I was the gal who made eye contact and smiled. You might've wanted to have me arrested for aberrant behavior, but I couldn't help it. Still can't.)

Maybe naive is the wrong word. I have few reservations when it comes to meeting new people and making friends, and I rely on my gut to determine whether you're someone I want to know better.

Is it easier to make that gut level determination in person? Possibly. I watch your body language, hear the tone of your voice. I feel the strength of your handshake, observe how you interact with those you might consider less than yourself, like wait staff or receptionists. On social media I rely on your written interactions with me and with other people. Some folks I've met through social media make me uneasy due to their language, the nature of their comments, or the inconsistency of their behavior. We can all be who we want to be online, but it's hard to be someone else full-time.

There aren't many people who make me uncomfortable. On the contrary, I've met some wonderful people who provide great support or comfort, and who make me laugh. People who are genuinely happy when I achieve something big or small, and share my frustration when things don't work out as I'd hoped. People who trust me with what's going on in their lives, and want to know what I think and feel about what's happening to them. People who help me when I need it, and will ask for help when they need it. Aren't these the kinds of things friendship is about?

Maybe I'm being naive again. It's quite possible. But I've had the pleasure of meeting a few of these cyber-friends in 'real life', and have found everyone I've met so far to be just who they presented themselves to be online - a real friend. Will every encounter turn out that way? Probably not, but I'm grateful for those that have.

What about you? Do you think it's possible to make real friends through social media?

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