How social networking affects real life relationships is one of the most talked about subjects on the internet these days, whether in blogs, news, advice columns, everywhere. And, it’s funny, how almost always people say social media get in the way of real life relationships, how it gives the illusion of friendships and blah, blah, blah. Yeah, I said blah, blah, blah. Because I beg to differ.
Just the other day, a friend said on Facebook that I was more social than she thought, that she’d thought I was a social recluse. Nope, not really, I’ve always been quite “popular”, for the lack of a better word. If you go to my birthday parties, they’re always crowded. Everyone I invite usually goes, friends from different social groups, that I’ve met in different times of my life, at different places. Friends who, mostly, at some time, have met each other, maybe even have been friends with each other, but haven’t kept in touch. Still, they’ve all kept in touch with me. It’s safe to say I’m very good at keeping up friendships. I have many friends I’ve known for ten, eight, seven years or more. I have very good friends from high school and even before. And, believe me, keeping in touch with people is so much easier when there’s Facebook or Twitter (or Orkut, in another life).
On my social networking sites, there are basically two types of friends: the ones I know in person and the ones I don’t, the first group being the great majority. Let’s start with real life friends. You see, my friends, school friends, and I have very, very incompatible schedules. Everyone does different things, at different times. Some study/intern all day, others study at night, work during the day, some have classes in the morning and sleep in the afternoon (not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course). Getting together is hard, working around all the schedules is hard. We try it, as often as possible, but, even then, it’s hard to see each other and catch up often. And, personally, I hate the phone. I think I call one or two of my friends regularly, if we give a broader definition for that word. If I depended on the phone to keep in touch with people, I would’ve lost most of my friends by now, I think. But, with Facebook, there’s magic. We can just post something, share something, ask something, and the others will reply, whenever they can. We don’t have to be there all at the same time to be close and communicate, we can just do it at our own time, and be close in a way our schedules wouldn’t allow. We even set up a lot of spur of the moment get-togethers online, like, “Hey, you guys wanna go out and eat something?” So, there’s that. I find the people I interact the most on Facebook are the people I know in real life.
Same happens with Twitter. In fact, not only Twitter allows me to keep in touch with friends, it has actually also created friendships for me, with people I know in person, who I might not have talked to if it weren’t for that blue little bird. Take my friend Lila, or @lilapds, whichever you prefer. You see, I’d been in her class for months, and never said a word to her — or her to me, for that matter — until, for some reason I don’t even remember, we started following each other on Twitter, and, bam, friendship formed. It was through @ replies that we found a common ground and created a friendship, which I’m happy to report, has led to us talking in person. Another example is @iara_sa, one of my sister’s best friends, whom I met in person, like, twice. Again, for an unknown reason, we started following each other and found out we had A LOT in common. We’re always tweeting to each other and chatting and joking. Someone from real life, who I’ve met through Twitter. And, like those, there are more.
Of course, social networking is also a GREAT way of keeping in touch with the friends I’ve made when I lived abroad, so, there’s that.
And… there are the virtual friends. Very few of them I met at social networking websites, most of them I met elsewhere online and brought them to my pages later. But I’ve met a few people that way. I met one of my best friends on Twitter, someone with a considerable age difference, who lives thousands of miles away, whom I probably would never have met otherwise, and who makes my life a better place. You see, the thing is, online friends and real life friends aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s not either/or. You can have great online friends and also have a lot of real life friends. You can email someone and meet someone else for lunch and go out with friends for dinner. These relationships don’t have to replace each other, they can just complement it. As I always say, the more friends, the merrier.
And, let’s face it, not everyone on my pages are friends. I have no problem with adding acquaintances. I have nothing to hide; mostly I don’t do online anything I wouldn’t do in real life, especially after my parents have taken over my social networking pages (Love you, mommy and daddy!). I think their presence is the best censorship I could ask for. So, yeah, nothing to hide. And I’m nosy as hell. I LOVE checking out the pages of Girl X from High School who just got engaged and OMG, what did Girl Y do with her hair?, and what a shame, Boy Z used to be so cute in middle school, what happened?
Back to my point, social networking not only hasn’t damaged my relationships with people in my life, it also made it possible to keep up these relationships in a way that time wouldn’t allow otherwise, and it’s brought more people into my life.
So, people, what do you think of social networking? Harmful to relationships, not harmful, or just a waste of time? What’s your experience with it? Made things simpler or more difficult? I want to know what you think 🙂