Friday, December 30, 2011

Are Social Network Friendships Real?

          The other day, I was tweeting away when Honey comes in and says “Why do you spend so much time on Twitter and Facebook with those fake friends when you have real people right in front of you?” Now, I know that was Honeyspeak for “I miss you. Get off the computer and come sit by me.” But that wasn’t the first time he alluded to people I talk to on social networks as “fake people” or “fake friends.” Honey doesn’t do social networking, so it would be easy to say that he just doesn’t get it, but he did have a point. Why would I spend so much time with people online when I am surrounded by “real” people?

          The truth is I love getting on Facebook and Twitter and finding out what people are up to. It is amazing to me that I can chat with people all over the world in real time. People from Japan and Russia have read my blog. How crazy is that? Social networking puts the world at your fingertips. I have connected with some of the most amazing people I never would have met otherwise.

          The question is: are they my friends? When I looked up “friend” online, I was amazed at all of the different definitions I found, and don’t even bother looking up social networking unless you want to be overwhelmed with information. They have tons of articles dedicated to social networking and friendship. “Friending” or being “Friended” has even been added to some dictionaries, but that doesn’t answer the question.

As I have said in previous blogs, I see Facebook and Twitter as different beasts. Facebook is a little more intimate mostly because my family uses it, so it is a great way for me to keep in touch with them and share family pics and information. Plus you aren’t limited to a certain number of characters like Twitter (although it is amazing what you can tell about people in 140 characters or less). People are able to say and share more there, and I don’t have as many people to keep track of.

Twitter on the other hand is crazy. It is a shotgun of personalities, advertisements, conversations, pictures, links, comments, etc. I have over 1500 followers now, and I find it really hard to keep up sometimes. Am I close to every one of them? No, but there are a handful of people I have really connected with and chat with on a regular basis. I care about them. We discuss personal issues. We talk about things that drive us crazy and our hopes and dreams about writing. We wish each other good luck for important events, talk about our families, and support each other with retweets, book reviews, joining/reading blogs, buying each others books - the kind of things that friends would do for each other. They send me tweets that make me smile, and I love to do the same for them.

So are people I meet on Facebook and Twitter my friends? I say yes. It may not be what people think of when you talk about traditional friendship, but I don’t think it makes those relationships any less meaningful. I get a cup of coffee in the morning and look forward to sitting down for awhile and chatting with people on Facebook and Twitter. I try to encourage people when they are down, celebrate when they post accomplishments, send prayers when they suffer loss or get sick, laugh at jokes, and appreciate kind words sent my way. I think about them when I am not online and wish them all the blessings life has to offer. If that isn’t friendship, I don’t know what is. 


  1. Awesome post! And I completely agree. However, one harsh reality I didn't expect to face has occurred more than once. A few people I became close with left Twitter. We emailed for a while, but eventually, they just stopped. In that sense, I've realized what a thin string holds us together. It's been tough, as I did consider them good friends, but I've learned to roll with it and move on. I try to enjoy people for whatever time they are in my life.

  2. I think it's OK to have online "friends" as long as the people in front of you aren't neglected or get jealous because they think you're becoming too friendly with you online friends. Too much can become too much.

  3. Michele - Good point. People do come in and out of our lives, but I can see how that might be different online. I wouldn't really expect people to stop using social networking, so I think I would be surprised to lose contact with people I met online because they can move anywhere and still keep in touch. Thank you so much for your comment!

    Everett - I totally agree with you. Online relationships cannot take the place of the people in front of you. Thankfully, we are all pretty disciplined about computer time here, so this rarely happens. Honey was having a bad day. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this and leave a comment!

  4. I've met some amazing people online, and my 'support' system has people from as far-flung places as Malta, Arizona, Atlanta, Australia, the UK, France. I'm more in tune with my 'online' people than those physically in my country.

    That being said, as long as no one who matters is being neglected, then where's the harm? That's the case whether your friends are 'real' or 'virtual'

  5. Good point Zee. I love meeting and talking with people online. It is amazing to me that I can chat with someone in Greece or Brazil or anywhere in the world right from my living room. I have made some friends that I may never meet face to face, but they are relationships that I truly cherish.

  6. I've met some super wonderful people on Twitter and I wouldn't change it for anything. My husband, also a non social networker, suspects that everyone else is tweeting from jail and they're all criminals lol. I, like you, marvel at how we can connect with like minded writers from around the globe - it's been a great experience for me so far :)