Know anyone with 2,514 friends? If you do, you are probably connected to him or her on Facebook, or Twitter. And that person is probably a bit promiscuous with the “confirm” button.
I don’t think the nature of friendship is changing because of the Internet. But the nature of conversation, which often leads to friendships, has definitely been evolving and the change is positive.
I just saw the Whitney Museum’s exhibit about Summer of Love, and it’s clear that the Internet is no 60s Love-In. But it’s got a lot in common with the days when people viewed total strangers as brothers and sisters.
What I do think has changed is the definition of conversation. I have had daily conversations for years with three or four different people whom I “met” when they responded to an article I wrote or we both commented in a forum and took a conversation into email.
Some of us have broken bread together, some of us have not. We’ve spoken on the phone, but not met in person. I consider these people to be among my close friends, and we have shared many details of our lives and some really good laughs over the past 10 years.
Friendships develop when people contribute interesting content over time, when they share links that are helpful or fun, and when we engage in actual conversation. And kindred spirits recognize each other no matter what the medium – that’s the special sauce of friendship, and that’s not changing.
I am happy to meet people through social networks, but they’re not friends just because I met them online, any more than everyone who reads my blog is a friend. (Although I have formed some amazing friendships with readers.)
I will continue to be selective about whose friendship requests I confirm, and open to the friendships that can develop with the people who sound interesting. We sure do live in interesting times.
There’s been some interesting discussion taking place in blogs and on Twitter about how social networks and blogs affect friendships. Steve Rubel, Stowe Boyd, both of whom I’ve met in person as a result of the Internet, and Anne Truitt Zelenka have all written interesting posts, from different points of view.
What do you think about online friendships?