Very good article on Facebook & friendships. What’s your take?
Two recent articles in the New York Times have raised the question of whether or not the daily interactions on Twitter and Facebook are trivializing our real world friendships by making it easier to do things like wish our friends a happy birthday onlineand send a tweet instead of picking up the phone, effectively diminishing our desire to have actual, face-to-face conversations.
For me, the exact opposite has happened. The stream of pleasantries, links and comments that I exchange online have only served to heighten my craving for in-person interactions at the end of the day. Laughing and gossiping outside of a Google Chat box (even if things we’ve read in the Internet often fuel a large part of the conversation) feels like a necessary antidote after a long day of silently staring at a computer screen and monitoring news alerts on my phone.
Similarly, wishing a friend happy birthday on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr doesn’t stop me from showing up at their party later to deliver a handwritten card or a batch of freshly made cake pops, prepared to celebrate all night.
If anything, Facebook has helped me sift through the friends I’m happy with keeping at arms length by offering the perfect vehicle to do it through. Instead of making obligatory phone calls or dinner dates to check in with old college classmates and former colleagues, I can happily send a message through Facebook instead, before powering down my laptop and dash off to drinks with the treasured few I’d rather see in person.
In many instances, Facebook and Twitter make us more curious to meet and chat with the people we’ve encountered online. Knowing them on the Web isn’t enough – it’s not uncommon to hear “I follow you online,” or “Nice to finally meet you IRL,” at any number of conferences or tech meetups as people finally put a real-life face to an avatar.
I recently ran into Tim Carmody, a technology writer who writes atSnarkMarket, and Mary HK Choi, also a writer, at a former colleague book party recently. After following them both online for months and exchanging good-natured messages on Twitter, I was beside myself with excitement to finally meet them offline.
I can’t imagine I would have been bold enough to introduce myself or strike up a conversation had we not built up a kind of camaraderie on Twitter in the weeks before.
There’s no doubt in my mind that we are still in the early stages of figuring out how to balance our online and offline interactions and making sure we don’t allow our deep immersion in social media and our devices to chip away at basic etiquette and manners.
But I’ve been pleased to see how the Web has strengthened and expanded some social ties without weakening the ones that matter most.
How have Twitter and Facebook changed the way you interact with people online and off? Are they helping you to improve your relationships or causing them to decay?