Friday, August 3, 2012

It Ain't Friendship. It's Social Media.

How many of you communicate via social media? Raise of hands please. Uh huh, uh huh. Quite a few. And how many of you would consider it your go-to means of communicating with the people in your social/business circles? You? Yep. And you? Mmhmm.

Feels great, doesn't it? Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest--all of those fabu connections. All those great convos. All that fun attention and socializing. I love it. Makes me feel so warm and fuzzy when people "Like" something I pin or do or say. And I really feel appreciated on my birthday when I get like 75 Happy Birthday posts from my peeps.

I should make it clear right now that none of these organizations have paid me or given me any gifts to endorse their services. Which is good. Because I'm kind of not. I mean, don't get me wrong; I think all of these websites have their place. My critique partners and I have a Facebook group in which we do all of our communicating. Also, we Gnomies have a thread that stretches years back where we do much of our chatting and scheduling. It works very well.  And the rest of those social tools? Well, they boost me, entertain me, and help me put myself out there a bit as a writer.

(And it's a big but. Much bigger than my own)

I got a birthday card a while back from a gnomelette that I've known since we were wee lasses. Like, forever ago. We used to write stories together and comics together. We had mega-sleep-overs which ended in movies and ice cream and her mom's famous cooking. We've stayed in touch for years and recently became Facebook friends as well. Finally! Our friendship is real!


I noticed a really big difference between what I felt when I read her card and what I feel when I read her posts. Not that there's anything wrong with her posts. There isn't. She's the same gal either way. 

Except--with the card, I am looking at her actual handwriting. And it it brings her back to me in a way that the precisely spaced black letters on my screen can't. Her handwriting is loopy and neat. It reminds me that she's an artist--although she's never pursued that. But the talent is there in spades. She's also a writer; a most excellent one. I know this because of those stories and comics we wrote together. She invented terrific characters with real emotions. My favorite was one she made up when we were 10 years old. He was the bad guy in our comic series. His name was "The Egypt Sissy." You can see my (10 year-old) version of what he looked like here, along with a few other characters that peopled our stories.

Gazing at my friend's handwriting reminds me that she was the one stable thing in my constantly changing existence. So even when she moved to Iceland and I moved to Germany we could count on each other still being there--through letters. We wrote, wove stories, illustrated them, traded experiences in our new countries, confessed unrequited love, dissed teachers who were with the Armed Forces school system solely to tour the world, and wondered if we'd ever grow into our teeth and feet. I even remember this little orange ice cream pop thing that I bought after we went and watched Zebra In My Kitchen together right before my family moved. (No for reals. It was an actual movie. And if you click that link above and view the trailer, the voice-over work alone will help you understand why it's never seen the light of day since the 1970's. It's like listening to a cheese grater.)

All of that literally starts roaming around in my psyche the minute I look at my pal's handwritten note. Online, I get her thoughts, and a dash of her personality--sometimes a big dash. But I don't get her. Same with other people. I get them right in that moment, but I don't get the whole them. And sometimes it takes several communications to truly understand what they are saying. Mostly because I can't see their face or their body language. I can't see them

Sometimes I wonder if social media is corrupting our relationships: creating the illusion of more than there actually is, undermining intentions through miscommunications, short-circuiting our social skills. I kind of miss the olden days where we wrote and called and met up in person to plan things. Wonder what it will be like in another 10 years.



shelly said...

One, all this social networking is time consuming. Two, it takes time to build a real friend on one of these. I know exactly what you're saying.

Hugs and chocolate,

Robin said...

Things go in cycles. Right now we need these extended connections. There will be a time when we need the stronger, closer ones and cultivating them will mean cutting off some of the looser extended ones. It'll come back around.

Murphala said...

This made me sad, in a way, but in another, I realize social media has helped me reconnect with people in my past that I normally would not have been able to find. I know of three such people in my very recent past. And then there's the people I've met via blogs or FB chatter...a whole different thing. I think it's part of reality now and "FB friend" takes on a whole 'nother dimension of friendship than just "friends". The world is smaller, our networks more wide-reaching. Maybe it's just another layer in the complex structure of social interaction... but I sure do like a snail mail card every now and then, or an actual hug with arms and not brackets.

Weston Rowley said...

I think the question "Is social media friendship real friendship" is perhaps too simplistic a question to elicit a good answer - the problem is, there isn't really a strict definition of what a friend is. As far as I can tell, friendship is a continuum ranging from 'guy I nod to because I know who he is and we happened to have a crush on the same girl at the same time' all the way up to 'we've saved each others lives like, a million times' and perhaps even reaching 'person I don't mind eating from the same plate as'. With such a broad spectrum of what friend means, can a sweeping statement really be made about social media?

My opinion? Social media by definition exist to continue, create, and build connections between people. Whether those connections are mere acquaintances or 'real' friends is dependent on what a friend is to you.

Norma Beishir said...

I like email because I really, really, really hate talking on the phone. I've found online connections to be like "real" relationships in that some of the people in your social media circles come to be real friends, while others are just fun acquaintances. And some aren't even that.

Janiel Miller said...

Hmm. I think y'all have converted me. Social networking is a new, different layer to the whole friendship spectrum. I like that. And through it I have met and reconnected with people that I never would have otherwise. So yeah. I guess it's a good thing.

I just hope we never lose the art of letter-writing snail-mail style. :)

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone!

Maegan Langer said...

I have found Facebook to be a great tool for keeping in touch, especially with friends who live many states or even countries away who I don't get to see often. It's also been a great way to connect with people who share my interests who I never would have met otherwise. Plus, I have a phone phobia and much prefer to communicate via email or Facebook.

But I agree that it quickly becomes too easy to spend more time than is needed on social networking sites if we're not careful.

William Kendall said...

Harbingers of the future, perhaps?

Social networking can be useful, I think... but as long as we don't let ourselves get carried away with it.

Great post!

Russo said...

I have never checked out Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, I may have to go for them. Ah, I love our facebook thread that stretches years back.

Russo said...
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