Friend or Follower: BFF IRL?
by Briana Campbell (@MsMatchGirl)
Many people say they love logging onto Facebook because it has given them a chance to reconnect with people they’d long lost touch with. And while it’s true that it’s great to be back in touch with your high school prom date or third grade math teacher, how much time do you really spend connecting with them?
Do you find out what long lost friends have been up to because they posted it as a status update or because you’ve had real contact – a phone call, even a direct e-mail – with them? Out of your 400+ friends on Facebook, (we won’t even bring Twitter in this part of the conversation) how many do you actually interact with? It’s great to see that MaryJane is happy and living with her three kids in Cleveland via social media sites, but does that mean you’re going to add her to your Christmas card list?
So, does Facebook (or whatever) really bring people closer together? Or do we just feel more connected because we are catching glimpses of other peoples’ lives across a screen?
Some studies say that social media is responsible for the rise in depression amongst teens. And others say that it makes the elderly less depressed when they have contact via social media forums. Some say that it makes your employees more productive and some say it’s sucking your payroll dry.
And no matter what you think of them, the average American spends just over 6 hours a day on social media websites. So the real question is not how they are affecting us, but how to put them to their best use. They’ve obviously changed the way we interact with others. But it’s still about relationships. And the way we treat our friends, fans and followers in cyberspace should not be that different than the way we’d treat them in real life.
A conversation in our New York office this morning had one of the Z-team admitting, when told that he didn’t “tweet” enough, that he didn’t really “get” Twitter.
Though I live (and live large) in that digital world that is oft referred to as the “Twitterverse”, it wasn’t always the case. In fact, I consider myself fairly new to it. And it was not so long ago that I would have been on the other side of this conversation. Not only do I now “get” Twitter, I thrive within it. I utilize it to promote my personal blogs and agenda, but also to assist my friends (IRL and digital) in promoting theirs.
I’m very lucky to have found, online, a supportive community. And even luckier to have found out that many of them actually reside in my neighborhood.
It seems strange, to many, that I would have so many friends that I met online. I don’t think, in the world we live in now, that it’s all that weird. Sure, I may have had initial, and virtual, contact with them because they were a reader of/commentator on my blog or because they “liked” my Facebook page or because they looked cute on an online dating profile or even because we were re-tweeting similar articles. When one spends so much time every day on the internet, how is it possible that you wouldn’t turn strangers, even literally virtual ones, into friends.
When I was in fourth grade, I had a pen pal. She lived in Australia and we met via a letter exchange that schools used to utilize in the 1980s to introduce students to other cultures (this was before every home had e-mail). We never met in real life, though we exchanged letters until well we both went off to university. She was definitely amongst my best friends. She knew all my secrets and I hers. We wrote about boys we liked and classes we didn’t. We shared everything. The same as we would with gal pals that we could slumber part with on the weekend. There is no question that she was my friend.
It’s the same conversation, just a different medium. How is it really any different, meeting people online, than in any other forum?
photo via A Comfy Chaos