Friday, May 31

Online Social Networks & Relationships

With the growth of social networks, more and more people are developing relationships online that become truly worthwhile. While some still view it as weird to make friends, meet the love of your life, and hang out with someone you interact with through tweets, wall statuses, and blog posts, there is no denying that these people are still flesh and blood. Some might go to great lengths to pretend to be someone they really aren't because when they log out out of a social network, their offline life isn't as enjoyable. Either way it goes, social networks aren't JUST some imaginary place to talk to imaginary people. No matter the level of delusion we make ourselves succumb to in order to say "these people aren't real to me", it sends the message that when you log on, you don't consider yourself to be real either.

While we all use social networks for different things (business, socializing, out of boredom, for attention, etc.), there's no denying, we're STILL on them. No matter how close we allow ourselves to get to others, to discount any interaction we might have had is to also diminish who we are. So what happens when the social experience has worn out its welcome with certain people?

As in real life, it becomes difficult for some to walk away because they don't want someone to get upset. However, if it's JUST Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/Instagram, why does it matter all of a sudden? It didn't before they unfollowed you or are people really honest with themselves about these networks just being something to do to pass time? It becomes obvious that there is a bias, depending on who it is that unfollows some people. If you know them offline or knew them before online social networking took over the world, feelings tend to get hurt.

I've been accused of getting into my feelings about being unfollowed when that wasn't the issue. If we are REAL friends AND have an offline friendship, I will ALWAYS address anything that seems off. This is not some right I only give myself; I extend it to anyone who has ever called me a friend. Otherwise, we don't have a real friendship. Do I feel ALL my friends NEED to follow me on everything for us to maintain a friendship? Most certainly not. ALL of my close friends could unfollow me today and while it would strike me as odd, I'm not going to be bent out of shape about it. Maybe they don't like what I have to say when I'm online and they're allowed that. A REAL friendship dictates that we have something of substance whether we can see what each other are saying/doing online or not. 

Why aren't we seriously asking ourselves why online networks play SUCH an important part in whether we stay friends with people if we had a decent relationship before the internet existed? If they were SUCH awesome people we could brag about online, what changed when they unfollowed us that made them less worthy of friendship? If we're fortunate enough to meet quality people online that we care to meet offline, shouldn't our bond sustain us past a follow? I would like to think so but the evolution of the word friend and various levels of maturity state otherwise. 

I've been the unfollowed and I've been the unfollower. Offline, I've been unfriended and I've had to unfriend people. Online, while it might be an easier task, the after effects when someone's feelings are attached to it, are still the same as offline. There should be a clear line of distinction though that if I'm telling you we're still friends after an unfollow, it isn't the same as sitting someone down and saying "I don't want to be friends with you anymore". Being tolerant of others involves leaving people alone to do as they please on their social networks. So if you're constantly contradicting yourself after I've sat and had hour long conversations with you, being excessively negative, an online bully, and/or lying about your life, I'm going to unfollow you. I don't want that experience offline and it's far easier to control ONLINE. 

I say all this to say...I'm of the old school when it comes to having REAL friends. If I got $5, you got $2.50. If you don't want to be lied to, don't lie to me. If you want me to herald you as great, you better be extolling me too. If you say you love me, it requires more than liking my pictures on Instagram, replying to tweets, and/or feeding my ego that doesn't need any more stroking as it is. While the internet has made life easy in tons of areas, ALL relationships STILL require human, not electronic effort. If you don't have it to give or don't want to be honest about preferring not so deep interaction, it isn't going to work. So an unfollow should be the least of our concerns when it comes to our REAL friends.

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