shutterstock_140043073-[Converted]This past weekend, I was fortunate to spend time with a bunch of friends – some new, some old, and all wonderful. All real. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that I have become much better at picking my friends. I no longer have time for toxic or negative people, and I’m usually able to weed those people out of my life very quickly. This holds true not only for my in-person friends (i.e. the people I see all the time) and my online friends (i.e. the people I don’t see in-person, but whom I still consider friends).

I think that these past 6 years or so, as I’ve learned how to be friends with people online, I’ve actually developed an even greater capacity for getting to know people and being able to tell which relationships are worth nurturing and which ones might not turn out to be healthy. This seems sort of counter-intuitive – after all, how can I possibly develop a deep friendship with someone if I’ve never even met them face to face, right?


These days, my friends basically fall into four categories:

  1. People I see in person often, but also who I hang out with online. This includes people like Bob, Stacey, and Dennis.
  2. People I have met in person, but mostly see online. This includes people like Jon, C.C, and Diane.
  3. People I used to see in person all the time, but now only really see online. This includes friends like Nick, Carol, and childhood friends like Leigh-Anne and Lexie.
  4. People I have never met in person, with whom I interact solely online. This includes people like Mark, Becky, and my podcast co-host Stefan.

The one thing I have in common with all of the people I’ve mentioned here is that, regardless of how we met or how we spend most of our time communicating these days, I consider them all friends. Good friends. We’re the kind of friends that, if one of us was stranded somewhere, the other would not hesitate to come to the rescue. We’re the kind of friends that, even though distance and years may separate us, we would be there for each other no matter what. We celebrate each others’ highs and support each other in the lows. I care just as much about the online friends that I’ve never met as I do about the ones that I see every week, or the ones that I maybe haven’t seen in a long time or only see once in a while. And I think (I hope!) that they feel the same about me.

I feel so fortunate that, because of the Internet, I’ve not only have I been able to make and nurture new friendships with people that I would otherwise have never had the opportunity to meet, but also that I’ve been able to maintain friendships with people that I thought I’d never connect with again.

I’ve been thinking about what it is about social media that allows us to keep these deep connections with others going. It used to be that the only way you could really stay in touch with a friend was direct contact – through meeting up with them, talking on the phone or sending letters. But life is busy, and finding the time to keep in touch with friends through these methods was a challenge. Often we’d lose touch with all but our closest pals.

Not only have social networks like Facebook and Twitter enabled us to connect more instantly with friends near and far, but they allow us to do something unprecedented – I call it “passive interaction”. You see, not only can I reach out and talk to my friends directly and have a conversation with them through the Web, but I can also passively watch their lives happen right in front of me. I can see when a friend posts something new to their blog. I can look at their Facebook page and see photos of their kids or their last gig or their wedding. I can see status updates that let me know that all is well in their corner of the world and I can take comfort in knowing that they are happy and healthy. And if they need me, I can be there in an instant.

We now live in a world that allows friendships to blossom on so many different levels. There’s nothing more exciting to me than meeting an online friend in person for the first time, or how thrilling it is that I’ve been able to watch my best friends from childhood as they have thrived and grown beautiful families. Or how nice it is to know that, even if I don’t see someone every day, or even every week, month or year, that the love that we share with one another as friends is continually blossoming and that our friendship is ever-deepening.

Indeed, what a remarkable world we live in.

What about you? Do you have any special friendships that have been made more special because of social media?

8 Responses

  1. We live in remarkable times for sure. I was going to say that in days long by many a relationship were maintained via pen pal but then you underlined a new nuance here that marks the difference in times… that being the ability of “passive interaction”…the creeping or stalking that is allowed by what we post or not online. We seem to allow other parts of our lives to be exposed that may not be the case in the less frequently real life contacts we had in the past. This allows for some deeper insights and a different sort of intimacy.. Weird and fantastic all at once.

    1. rebecca.happy1 Thanks for stopping by! I don’t find it as weird as I did at first, the “creeping” you refer to. I find it’s just sort of the normal way we do things now – instead of calling someone to see how they are doing we can see it in their stream. It doesn’t replace direct contact, for sure, but it does enhance the times when we do meet up in person. 
      I find it amusing when sometimes someone will walk up to me at an event and ask an obscure question  about something I may have posted on my timeine weeks prior – it always takes a few moments to recall exactly what they are talking about! : )

      1. suzemuse rebecca.happy1 you were probably the very first person I met face to face after meeting you online. I remember being very very nervous.

  2. I love this post – as you knew I would. LOL I think about stuff like this all the time. It truly is a bizarre but incredible world we live in today. What’s even more bizarre, is how it’s “normal” to my son and his peers (13/14 year olds). The day will come that no one will deconstruct or philosophize about their expanded networks and friendships. Not sure if that’s a good or bad thing. It’s just ‘a thing’. I for one am thrilled we met Sue. 😀

  3. I love this. However, I feel that relationships grow closest when we meet our online friends “in real life” for the first time. I’m referring to those handshakes, hugs and high-fives that bring us that much closer. I wrote about this at length in my book, which brings me to another point. 
    I can clearly see who my “real” friends are by noting who has supported my becoming an author. I can see who has liked the book’s Facebook page (I’ll add that I noticed you did, a true friend), who has tweeted to me about it, or who has emailed or called me to say congratulations. 
    I love that we can meet so many like-minded people online now. Just like “in real life”, it takes time to build true relationships, but the payoff is priceless. I’m glad to call you a friend. Now I just need to get my butt to Ottawa finally. 🙂

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