Y’all know how it is. You’re wasting time on Twitter, and someone retweets something that is funny, or thought-provoking. You follow the tweet to find out who was the originator. Once you find them, you follow them, y’all start conversing, and you find out that you have a lot in common. A couple of weeks later, you find each other on Facebook. Then you start inboxing, emailing each other back and forth, and within a couple of months, you have a new internet bestie, complete with insider joke hashtags. I know a lot of folks that met this way, and have turned into real life confidantes and close friends. I met Arelis and Janeane online, and trust both of them with my password to my blog (so you KNOW it’s real!). A like can turn into a relationship, but it doesn’t start off like that.
Just like with in person relationships, online friendships take time to develop. Okay, so you see my pictures, and you know (what I choose to share publicly) about my life, but until we get to a certain level, most folks are only scratching the surface of who I really am. Even in the case of people who share (what may seem like) a lot of intimate information online, chances are, there’s more to them. Sometimes we get to the point with our online buddies that goes below the surface, and we realize that “Hey. I really like this person.” Other times, we learn more about them and decide, “Hmm..this person is different than I thought, and I don’t really want to be friends.”
It happened to me. When I first started blogging, I was so excited to connect with other bloggers that I was all “like, like, like”. Earlier this year, I was going through my friend list and I realized I didn’t even know half of the people I was “friends” with. I started paying closer attention to my feed, and discovered a few bigots, hatemongers, and worse of all, whiney brats. I’m not saying that some of my close friends and family don’t sometimes display those same behaviors (I probably do as well. I’m no saint…), but the difference is, I know them offline, too. I get to experience their 3 dimensions, so it balances out. If the only interaction I have with someone is online, and the only dimension I get to see of them is negative…delete, unlike, unfriend.
On the other hand, I have met some folks online, we became “real” friends, and I can’t stand them online anymore! And I know they’ve probably muted me, too, because they never comment on my status updates. And when we chat, we are really talking, and asking questions because, no, I didn’t see that you made pasta last night for dinner. And they’ve told me that my exclamation marks and perkiness annoy them. Ha! You know, friendships evolve, people change, and our relationships change. We may not start off as friends, but a like can be a start. Or not. Whatever.
Social media can sometimes give us the false sense that we are closer to folks than we really are. Getting an intimate look into people’s lives, we start to think that we know them. We start to feel familiar. And with familiarity comes expectations. And with expectations comes responsibility. And the next thing we know, we’re sitting at home, stressing out over a tweet or a Facebook post that someone we never even met in person wrote that we think might be about us. It’s crazy. We can not allow Facebook to define our relationships.
None of my best friends read my blog. Most of them don’t follow me on Twitter. Some of them haven’t liked my Facebook fan page. They don’t syndicate. Rarely comment. And yet, they’re the most important people in the world to me. They would (and have) gone to the ends of the earth for me, and I would give them the shirt off of my back. They may not like me, but they definitely love me. And that, to me, is what a “friend” is.
Tell me about the folks you LIKE online. Friends? Associates? Or just…likes?