Online relationships and what they mean to me.

4 Dec

So today I got thinking about the thirty day photo challenge I’m doing on Dailybooth and how more people would see it and comment and maybe join in if I were to do it on Facebook, but that I never would. I would be too embarrassed and shy. This thought struck me as odd because most of my friends on Facebook are people that I’ve known for quite a long time, long before Facebook even existed. Most of them are from my “real” life (how I loathe that common expression). So why would I be too shy or embarrassed to share this kind of photoblogging endeavor with them, but not with my online social community?

My first thought was one that I imagine would come from someone who isn’t immersed in a thriving online social network, and that was, “Well, it’s easy to share something with strangers. They don’t know you, it’s the anonymity factor.” But you and I know that isn’t the case. If you’re reading this, chances are we know each other quite well. We have a tight social community, with real and profound relationships. I know about your lives, your joys, your problems and you know about mine, we vent to each other, we laugh with each other, we lean on one another for support–so it’s unquestionably not the “you can hide behind your screen name” theory.

I thought about it for a while, and about our relationships–the Facebook/IRL relationships vs the Twitter/YouTube/Nerdfighter/Skype relationships–and realized that the key difference is is authenticity. I can honestly say that most of my online relationships are far more authentic than those in real life (and extended into Facebook). There is so much more communication and less judgement between you and I, friends. In the real world, you’re forced into situations and communities–your class, your workplace, your team. They become the people with whom you surround yourself by default. Online, you have to really want and try to develop a friendship with someone. You have to take the initiative and make the effort to get to know them, keep up with them, and create a valued bond.

Of course I’m not discounting my friends IRL. They’re wonderful and I doubt I’d be here if it weren’t for some of them. But how many are still around once they’re no longer forced into communal situations? How many of your friends from high school, university or your hometown are you still friends with? Why is it that we don’t make the effort to keep in touch? It would be no more difficult for me to send a Facebook message to my old BFFs than it is to chat with you, and yet I don’t. And nor do they.

What this boils down to, is that I believe that online networks and relationships work because we care about each other enough to make the effort. If I didn’t care to know what’s happening in your life, or if you had no interest in keeping in touch with me, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t follow one another’s every move on Twitter, we wouldn’t offer our shoulders on Skype, we wouldn’t share obscure nerdy links with the particular person of our group we know will totally appreciate it, we wouldn’t have such meaningful conversations over one another’s YouTube videos or personal insights, we wouldn’t follow silly photo challenges on Dailybooth–we just wouldn’t; it’s much easier to ignore or unfollow than it is to care and stay involved.

In summary, if we are friends online, it’s because I care a lot about you. I want to know what’s happening, I want to be there for you if you need me, I think you’re funny, I get excited with I see your username, I have a lot of respect for you, I am intrigued by you, in one way or another I wish I was like you; I want to keep you around.

Don’t ever let anyone discount your online presence or friends. They only do it because they don’t understand.

I love you guys xx


One Response to “Online relationships and what they mean to me.”

  1. Sam December 4, 2010 at 5:44 pm #

    I think this is hands down my favourite of your blogs so far Meg. You echoed my feelings on this matter so clearly and expressed them more eloquently than I could hope to. I truly feel privalidged to know you and long may this continue.

    Love you too.
    Sam xx

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