My lovely friend Sueanne & I

This week’s pondering…..Do you feel your online relationships are real friendships? Why or why not?

There is much said online about authenticity and transparency in social media – it is a frequently discussed in chats and streams all over Twitter. What I am wondering is if the friendships that are formed within online communities and individuals are real. Is there enough authenticity within social media that you can have a real friendship. Really real – like I have an emergency I need to call you or I need help with something do you know the answer to that? For me, I do feel that I have true friendships and bonds with people that I have met online. This is not to mean that everyone I am friendly with is a friend – that is not the same thing to me. A surface level relationship of casual “hi” tweets and light conversation is not a friendship but it is really nice to have these people and these relationships can grow, stay the same or sometimes just fade away. It is remarkably easy to lose people on Twitter that you have at this level.

If you move beyond Twitter to a phone call or Skype conversation, this can deepen the level of friendship as you might get to know more details about the person and their life. For me, I have been very blessed to attended many tweetups around the country in Chicago, New York City, Hudson Valley and Boston. My husband came to my first tweet up in Boston because he was worried about “the internet people” and my safety. He was really impressed by all my Boston friends and we had a great time! 96.2% of the time, the people that I have met have been exactly like they are online. I felt like I already knew them and it was the ultimate friendship affirmation. Sure, there was a few people that I didn’t click with or talk to much afterwards but the majority of the friends – and I do call these people TRUE friends – have been a wonderful gift in my life. They get my need to have my sparkly iPhone in my hand all the time and we already have a great level of communication built. I had the pleasure of being on a panel at a #140 Conference in Hudson Valley with friends that I had been talking to for months – it was a total blast!

Here are what other’s ponderings were….

Thoughts from: Bruce Sallan, Author, radio host of “The Bruce Sallan Show – A Dad’s Point-of-View”, and host of #DadChat 6pm PST, 9 pm EST:

“I’ve been calling my online relationships, “Virtual Friends.” That is not meant in a derogatory way, just in a way that distinguishes it from my IRL friendships. The depth of feeling I have towards said “Virtual Friends” varies just as much as my IRL friends.

“Some of my VFs have blossomed into deeper friendships when we’ve met, participate in Tweet Chats, and otherwise carried our relationship beyond 140 characters. While Twitter is an exceptional networking tool, for me the deeper connections still require actual contact.

“Nonetheless, sometimes I feel I know my VFs extremely well. The dad blogger community has grown in ways I couldn’t have imagined. As I meet more of more of my VFs, at conferences or other events, they just develop further into people I truly care about.

“Like everything in life, it’s a matter of degree, a matter of how much you put into it, how much you give, and the journey is as much fun as the destination! Peg is a perfect example of a VF that I know is going places. We’ve yet to meet, but the amount of depth we’ve shared in our e-mails, chats, and tweets, not to mention the mutual support we’ve given each other in the form of comments, has revealed more about Peg than many of my so-called Drinking Buddies.”

I love it.

Thoughts from Libby Baker: Libby’s Blog:

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” — C.S. Lewis — This is my favorite quote on friendship helps answer the question: Do you feel your online relationships are real friendships? Why or why not?

“My answer is a resounding “YES”! And it stems from my definition of friendship contained partly in this quote. True friendship begins with recognition. Seeing something in the other person that pulls you towards them, makes you want to connect, spend time with them, get to know them better. Because you realize when you meet them, whether it be in a grocery store or a Twitter stream…that you want to know more about them. There is an immediate connection and a promise of more, a comingling of souls! This can happen just as easily on a Skype call as a phone call, at a face to face meeting, or a tweet. There are no barriers of time and space in the realms of our souls and hearts where friendship dwells.

“I have known times when I needed a friend, and couldn’t get in touch with my sisters or brothers, or my best girlfriend since I was 13, my husband, or my daughter and my dear friends from Twitter Dave Reynolds @997dave and Rickie Tyler @rickietyler have come through for me with a timely Skype call all the way from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Two of my very best girlfriends are Heather @AliveinMe and @MaryJTriviski. I met Heather on Twitter and Mary through Heather on Facebook. Mary lives about a half hour from my house, but our paths wouldn’t have crossed…the city is too large — except for my friendship with Heather who lives in Philadelphia.

I have many stories like these. My Twitter and Facebook friends have enriched my life and the giving goes both ways. I am thankful for the wonderful friends I have, no matter where or how we have met or connect. They are supportive, delightful, funny and fun and enrich each day. Hey, you may need someone to talk to in the middle of the night and wouldn’t dare call anyone on the phone, but Twitter is always open!”

Thoughts from Dave Reynolds:

“I have been thinking about this quite a lot recently. I did not know Trey Pennington. As a serious student of Social Media, I certainly knew WHO he was and what he stood for. His passing affected me deeply and profoundly. How could someone with so many “friends” be so uncertain about life? Easily pondered not easily answered, perhaps impossible.  I am not a smart man, please bear with me while I try to explain and let me start here. I think friendship is a responsibility not an opportunity. I have honestly tried to live that thought. On-Line “friendships” are a pretty new thing for me.  A lot of kind and generous people are found On-Line particularly in the #UsGuys stream on Twitter. This is good. But, what if an On-Line “friend” was in REAL trouble? The kind of trouble that, although helpful, kindness and generosity with one’s time and good wishes, is not alleviated. Real “friendship” is a responsibility not an opportunity, whether in On-Line or in real life.  If I publicly state to be your “friend”, then when you are in REAL trouble,  it’s my responsibility as your “friend” to help or I am a fraud. An On-Line friend of mine experienced some REAL trouble recently. He did not ask for my help. I just did.

“I’m not sure there IS an answer to this question. Friendship kinda resists any linear structure and is really not measurable in any practical sense…but if you care enough to help someone out, and really reach out to them in today’s World then you are a friend. So maybe, just maybe I’ve answered the question. I CARE ergo on-line friendships are real. They impact my life just like the friends who live on my block. In some cases, MORE!”

A good exercise for the heart is to bend down and help another up. ~ Some wise man

What are your thoughts about online friendships? Have you attended any tweetups or conferences with friends that you have met online? Please share your experiences and thoughts.

Photo credit Paul Biedermann