Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is It Real or Fake Friendship?

One local fellow wrote that he was glad we are “friends” on facebook.com. We have met at public meetings and I would talk to him, but it is very true that we are not friends in real life. Since his profiIe was up on facebook, I sent a friend request. In “fake life” we are now “friends”.

What kind of friends are these people? I see references to “online friends” and “cyber friends”. There are poems about cyber friends. Websites designed to help you make netfriendships. There is no expectation of knowing these people in the flesh. I know I’m not nearly the first person to wonder about this, but every day I see more ads and ways to connect online. To me it always seems like a waste of time, or a way to stop the loneliness, or an addiction to interacting. Even so, sometimes you do become closer to these people online, but is it really a friendship?

In my life around town, I know a lot of people, talk to a lot of people, and refer to a lot of people as friends. Because I volunteer in so many places, I have people to interact with in real life, so I’m having trouble processing these new cyberfriendships. Why do people do it? Is it a hopeful sign that we constantly want to reach out to strangers in this world? To me it feels like we are on a path to the oneness of death by joining together beyond the physical world. Now that’s too heavy, but this internet world does swirl around me. It can also disappear with the push of a button.

My disapproval seems to be at the falseness of the online friends. It’s like some type of hobby where you collect things, except in this case it’s people’s profiles. You learn things about people that you wouldn’t if you were say … just neighbors. Sometimes the information is too personal and directed at others but you are exposed to it. Most of the time people are putting their best foot forward or simply promoting themselves.

Online friends can give advice but they aren’t going to be able to help you move or water your plants when you are away. You can exchange ideas but the friendship isn’t real. These new kind of relationships depend on the amount of time you can spend on the laptop, as it sits right here on the counter while I dash around doing chores. Sometimes it feels more like an addiction which is usually when I stop.

Will I be better friends in real life with my “friend”. We’ll see.

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