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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