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How wide open is your virtual window?

open window - IMGP0059. chez_sugi/FlickrA few months ago I wrote a post about connecting with my friend Alice via Facebook and what that meant to me. The premise of the post was the idea that social media tools would enable folks to stay connected easier allowing friendships and relationships to grow and develop over time.

What I didn’t count on was my beginning to think about what that means to the relationships that you haven’t formed yet or those that are not as strong…

While it’s already something I’ve considered, I’ve been thinking about it even more in recent weeks following my visit to Betsy’s appearance in Aida courtesy of Opera Birmingham. Among the people that I saw that evening were several people who were “friends” on Facebook and Twitter – just not the level of friends that would necessarily go out of the way to engage during a night out on the town.

I’ll make one statement before I go any farther – I know that the world doesn’t revolve around me (and it doesn’t do so around you either). That’s not what I’m talking about anyway…

Now then…

The bigger question is really one about the term “friend” as it’s used nowadays and how does that translate. A conversation with Betsy about a related topic made me realize that maybe we should be using “connections” or “acquaintances” as the descriptive term.

Why? There are many people who have added me as a friend via various social networks (but most notably Facebook) that really don’t know me that well at all. The window into my world that it provides probably makes more sense to those that have known me for some time compared to those who’ve only heard my name or who’ve made the passing connection in person. They know only what they see of me via status updates & tweets. It prevents folks from seeing instances of sarcasm or despair, enjoyment or anguish. These virtual glimpses allow for there to be less awkwardness when you meet in person or talk on the telephone, but is it really a friendship?

Perhaps it relates back to what Facebook was originally created for – keeping up with your friends in college. Nowadays some folks use it to keep track of people that they’re fans of or with people that they’d like to meet and do business with, hoping that it will give them an edge. Facebook is a popular social networking site and people have turned to it for marketing purposes with some success (I do use it to help syndicate not just this site but my other online outposts, Urban Conversations and The Terminal), but there’s a reason why FarmVille and Mafia Wars are popular on the service.

I’ve noticed it the most recently. I’ve posted a couple of status updates that drew different responses (or no response at all) based on their level of friendship with me. It had me doing a lot of thinking, particularly about whom I consider a friend, especially since most people know me only through that sliver that is posted online for all to see.

Our virtual windows continue to open wider to the rest of the world every day.

Do we need to think about who we allow in so we are being true to ourselves?

Photo: open window – IMGP0059. chez_sugi/Flickr

Published inSocial commentaryThe Rambles
8 comments
Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Thanks for the comment, Dusti. That's the reason I focused a little more on Facebook than Twitter.

I think of Twitter the same way you describe it - a place I can connect without worrying about developing friendships. I've been lucky to actually have some friendships start but some of those developed only after I connected with them on another social network (for many of them, Plurk).

I guess the real reason I wrote this was because most of the folks I'm connecting with are not in Birmingham, so it's the only way I can connect with real friends - virtually. Those that get to look in the window aren't necessarily looking for friendships and that's fine - for them. I'm trying to figure just what else has to happen to have some more meaningful connections in person here instead of relying on more trips to find them away from home...

Tough thing to grapple with I guess.

dusti
dusti

My obsession over the last 28 years (I was 6 the first time I left behind friends in a move) has been keeping up with people I knew "when." As a kid I expected the friendships to remain, and they didn't always. As an adult, we can reconnect through Facebook and other social utilities. My expectation is not that we'll rekindle our old friendship (though in so many cases we really have, and I love it!) but that we can simply see what is happening with the other. I admit I temper some of my status updates on Facebook (that and I have family on there, including my parents, and try to be sensitive to their feelings). Sometimes I wonder how honest I can really be there, having to consider all of the people who could be reading it.

When I signed on to Twitter the first time (I guess two years ago?) I wasn't sure how I'd use it. I remember tweeting the entire Sheryl Crow concert, not knowing who the heck was reading my tweets. When I decided to use Twitter more fully, it was first to connect with other Methodist thinkers (I'm Methodist and I think a lot--therefore I'm a Methodist thinker). Then I realized I could connect with other people, and then with people who lived in my area. And that is how I connected with people whose ideas I respect and who are fun to talk to (the few times a month I actually see them in person).

Where FB became a place to keep up and catch up with people, Twitter has become my avenue to actually meeting new people who have the potential to be actual friends (and if they don't, that's okay, I can handle being "connected" to some people without developing a deep friendship).

Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Like I said over on Facebook, I know I'm grateful for reconnecting with folks like you (and hopefully getting a chance to meet up if I get to come up in March for a conference). I wouldn't trade that answer for anything else in the world.

I'm still worried about the rest of the folks who either I don't reach out to or who don't reach out to me who happen to decide to add as a friend. Friendships always take work and maybe this is a passive approach for some (though obviously not for others).

dcdesigner
dcdesigner

When I first joined FB it was because I felt like I had completely lost my identity. I had become, Veronica's employee, Matthew and Daniel's Mom, and Eric's wife. I used the social media to reconnect with people who have a shared history with me and to remind myself and others that I have my own identity which is energetic, witty, and creative. ... See MoreSocial media has enabled me to become more social in person, since I have found out about events and opportunities which I would have missed otherwise. I've been able to reconnect with an incredible support network of people who until recently have been separated by years and miles. I am glad that I opened the door a crack and I am not looking back.

Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Thanks for the comment, Dusti. That's the reason I focused a little more on Facebook than Twitter.

I think of Twitter the same way you describe it - a place I can connect without worrying about developing friendships. I've been lucky to actually have some friendships start but some of those developed only after I connected with them on another social network (for many of them, Plurk).

I guess the real reason I wrote this was because most of the folks I'm connecting with are not in Birmingham, so it's the only way I can connect with real friends - virtually. Those that get to look in the window aren't necessarily looking for friendships and that's fine - for them. I'm trying to figure just what else has to happen to have some more meaningful connections in person here instead of relying on more trips to find them away from home...

Tough thing to grapple with I guess.

dusti
dusti

My obsession over the last 28 years (I was 6 the first time I left behind friends in a move) has been keeping up with people I knew "when." As a kid I expected the friendships to remain, and they didn't always. As an adult, we can reconnect through Facebook and other social utilities. My expectation is not that we'll rekindle our old friendship (though in so many cases we really have, and I love it!) but that we can simply see what is happening with the other. I admit I temper some of my status updates on Facebook (that and I have family on there, including my parents, and try to be sensitive to their feelings). Sometimes I wonder how honest I can really be there, having to consider all of the people who could be reading it.

When I signed on to Twitter the first time (I guess two years ago?) I wasn't sure how I'd use it. I remember tweeting the entire Sheryl Crow concert, not knowing who the heck was reading my tweets. When I decided to use Twitter more fully, it was first to connect with other Methodist thinkers (I'm Methodist and I think a lot--therefore I'm a Methodist thinker). Then I realized I could connect with other people, and then with people who lived in my area. And that is how I connected with people whose ideas I respect and who are fun to talk to (the few times a month I actually see them in person).

Where FB became a place to keep up and catch up with people, Twitter has become my avenue to actually meeting new people who have the potential to be actual friends (and if they don't, that's okay, I can handle being "connected" to some people without developing a deep friendship).

Andre Natta
Andre Natta

Like I said over on Facebook, I know I'm grateful for reconnecting with folks like you (and hopefully getting a chance to meet up if I get to come up in March for a conference). I wouldn't trade that answer for anything else in the world.

I'm still worried about the rest of the folks who either I don't reach out to or who don't reach out to me who happen to decide to add as a friend. Friendships always take work and maybe this is a passive approach for some (though obviously not for others).

dcdesigner
dcdesigner

When I first joined FB it was because I felt like I had completely lost my identity. I had become, Veronica's employee, Matthew and Daniel's Mom, and Eric's wife. I used the social media to reconnect with people who have a shared history with me and to remind myself and others that I have my own identity which is energetic, witty, and creative. ... See MoreSocial media has enabled me to become more social in person, since I have found out about events and opportunities which I would have missed otherwise. I've been able to reconnect with an incredible support network of people who until recently have been separated by years and miles. I am glad that I opened the door a crack and I am not looking back.