I've been thinking about the friends in my life, prompted by an interesting Twitter discussion between a couple people I follow, and one I do not. Which is funny because the one I do not follow used to be a close friend of mine. Well, he was a close friend to me, at least. I've realized over the course of the now nearly two years since our friendship ended that I invested way more in the relationship than he did. So as I watched this discussion on Twitter continue (which I could try and ignore, but when the name keeps popping up with my other followers, curiosity gets the best of me), I was intrigued by the thoughts on friendship, and his take especially since he seemed to think online friendships weren't nearly as viable as real life ones (which I suppose in the instance of our failed friendship his argument could be true, at least in his mind). However, I have my own thoughts on friendship. So consider this opening my disclosure statement...
I have a friend, Dave. I've known Dave since 2004, and we've been through a lot together. He's one of the most non-judgmental people I know, at least when it comes to his friends. I could tell him anything, and pretty much have, and he in return. Dave lives in Minnesota, and I've spoken to him by phone (or skype) many times, and finally met him in person (albeit briefly) on a stop while traveling a couple of years ago.
I have a friend, Julie. I've known Julie since 2004, and we've been through a lot together. She's one of the most non-judgmental people I know, at least when it comes to her friends. I could tell her anything, and pretty much have, and she in return. Julie lives in California, and we took a "Thelma and Louise" weekend up to Sedona a few years ago. Which incidentally was the first time I met her in person. I call her my Other (I Heart Huckabees movie reference). We don't speak nearly as often as we'd like, but we both know the depth of our friendship, and that lack of speaking doesn't mean any less that what we know our relationship is.
I have a friend, Kimber. I've known Kimber since 1999, and we've been through a lot together. I could tell her anything, and pretty much have, and she in return. Kimber lives right next door, and although we met as neighbors, she is one of my closest friends.
Those are just three examples. Two friends I met online, and one in real life. But you know, I don't like separating the two. Dave and Julie are not fantasy friends- they are part of my real life too. That's the thing about the internet today and socializing online- it's not part of fantasy play alone anymore. Sure, many still use it that way, but I think that's mostly used to troll around, escape their own reality, or even to hurt people. If you're going into using the internet socially for the right reasons, then it's pretty easy (if you have half a brain) to weed out those who are just there to mess around. So to distinguish, I'll say "online" and "offline".
There are levels to friendship too. There are many I call "friend", and there are many I just leave as "acquaintance". There are even those who I enjoy connecting with because you never know who ELSE might be interested in a relationship with them! Just like offline relationships, you weed out your connections, and stick with those you click with. Twitter has been an amazing source for just that. When you travel, whether around your town, or around the country, you can tweet where you'll be and perhaps there will be an opportunity to connect. Hell, even in England I had the opportunity to attend a tweet-up, it just didn't work out time-wise. I often joke that Twitter gave me a social life, and it's really not a joke. These sorts of things just cannot be done without wi-fi!
As to the obvious argument about the internet breeding anti-social behavior, as you can see I really disagree. I do concede that it's all in how you use it. However, even when I'm just sitting at home chatting away online, it's a social outlet for me. My husband is rather on the anti-social side, and so I'm not always able to head out and be social offline. I'm definitely a more social person than he is, so being online has helped with that.
Speaking of my husband and being less social. He's not an online person when it comes to networking and friends. He doesn't chat online. He doesn't post on forums. He only goes to Twitter to stalk me. :-) I nearly had a heart attack when he made a Facebook account, because it's the last thing I ever thought he would do. Some people are just that way. It isn't a bad thing, and it certainly doesn't mean something is wrong with him. It just happens to be the way he is.
To take the internet one step further, we have family in other states that we have set up skype with in order to keep in touch and chat with. Does this suddenly make these family members less real? Is it less of a relationship because it's mostly online now? Hehe, I think not. Hell, several of my offline friends right here in the Phoenix area began as online friends (Debbie, Dan & CJ, Aaron, LaDawn, oh so many others- you know who you are)!
So see, it's not about which types of friendships are better or more "real" than others. It's about what people want in their lives, or what they don't want. It's not to be criticized, because one way of connecting and starting friendships is no better than another. I would say that those who are critical of online relationships should probably take a closer look at all of their relationships, whether online or off.