Friends & Friendship Reloaded

I have wrestled with the concept of friendship and what effect the Internet has upon it for some time. Are our virtual friends any less real? Can you really know someone you never met ? How does a virtual friend get you out of jail? -thoughtful pause- Eventually, I came to realize that long before the Internet, we quantified our friends, best, good, old, etc. To me, what is so intriguing and perplexing about virtual friends is they represent an entirely new category while adding new depth and dimensions to existing categories. Yes, some new friends may exist only in the virtual, but existing friends can leverage technology to be more inclusive and collaborative in our lives.

Best friends are those who I will  travel to the ends of the earth for. These friends span many continents and exist both the physically and virtually. We are users of technology, yet are not only bound by technology. They are my most trusted advisors. Good friends, like best friends, I share a bond with. No, not an end of the earth bond, but one critical to my well being none the less. Currently,  I am blessed with a great group. They are my go to friends when I need something tweaked, feedback, or a little crowd sourcing. I have not met them all, but I know I can count on them. Occasional friends are my friends with a speciality. A unique bond exists between us, yet it usually centers around one particular aspect or interest. I usually want more from these friends, but there is never enough time to move beyond their speciality. Online friends are the individuals I encountered along my journey. We share something in common and it is often largely superficial.  Online friends may become more, but generally we are happy with the demands to maintain our online friendship, updates in fragmented pieces. Old friends drift across our paths sporadically.They used to rank among our best and good friends. We still love them dearly and will go to great lengths to keep them. Could be friends are my biggest regret. There is something happening around them that I want to be part of, but my life keeps interrupting. To me, they are a product and a causality of technology. I hold a lot of them yet we can never move beyond the online.

Friendships take time. They are complicated and often painful. Uncertainly and doubt plagues them from time to time. Without care, maintenance or new ones, it becomes difficult to define ourselves. Who are we without friends? Technology can fast track new friendships, preserve existing ones, and work to the detriment of others. As life fundamentally changes, we must use technology to get to know people we have never met in person. No, technology may never be able to satisfy that in person desire, still  do not let it prevent you from making virtual friends. And in any online adventure, keep your common sense handy. If someone seems to good to be true, they probably probably are not your friend.



4 thoughts on “Friends & Friendship Reloaded

  1. I like the issues you raise in this post Martin. The diagram especially intrigued me as it was something very similar to what we used in my days doing drug awareness education – although basically about the dissolution of friendships as addiction takes over.
    I personally like the onion layer concept that you describe so well as it applies to friendships.
    On the topic of Can Virtual Acquaintances become Best Friends, I believe that they can, but base this on the experiences (rare though they may be) of my sister and an aunt, who developed “best friend” friendships with penpals on the other side of the world – friendships that lasted decades and where, after 20 and 50 years, meetings eventually took place . Surprisingly in the case of my sister, the friendships endured. Penpals were perhaps the first phase of virtual friendships.

  2. Thanks Bruce! I did think about the pen pal example as well. I had a pen pal for a while too. It was great imagining what life through his letters. The immediacy of today’s world can be unnerving. It can easily be mistaken for friendship. Or put another way, it can be passed off as friendship today. -M

  3. Martin, I also like the issues you raise. I know everyone of my “friends” on Facebook. I applied the same thing when I first began to use Twitter. I only followed people that I knew, personally (that said, I only ever tweeted once!). Then SWA PD happened! I was introduced to so many great people on Twitter. Though, I won’t say they are my friends quite yet, I will say that I’m getting to know personalities. It would be great to see what they are like in “real-life.”
    Friendships are so important and I think we all have some people in all those categories you list.
    Are you taking a cautionary tone for the students we teach? Are you worried who they will be “friends” with in the virtual world? That definitely worries me.

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