Today’s guest post is from my friend Shawn Smucker who is currently in the midst of 4-month, 10-thousand mile journey through 33 states with his family. While on the road, Shawn is spending a lot of time meeting up with fellow-writers and friends. I asked him to share some of his thoughts on how he is using social media as part of this trip. You can follow his journey over on his blog.
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Online friendships aren’t real relationships…are they?
There’s no substitute for spending real time with someone, face to face…is there?
All these social websites do is give you a superficial glance into someone’s life…don’t they?
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My family’s bus (affectionately named “Willie”) pulled into a Walmart parking lot in Gainesville, Florida. A friend I met in the blogosphere recommended the location; in fact, she and I had never met in “real life.” We didn’t even have each other’s cell phone numbers – all of our correspondence had occurred via Twitter or Facebook.
Her black minivan pulled up beside our big old bus. I saw her twins in the back seat, and even though it was the first time I had ever seen them in “real life,” because of her blog posts and Facebook pictures, I felt like I knew them. My wife and I got out and approached her van.
Before I knew it, I was hugging this stranger. But she wasn’t a stranger – she was a friend. Because of her writing I knew her as well as, if not better than, many of my hometown friends.
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The next day we were in Orlando. I walked into a quaint wine bar sometime around dusk, looking hesitantly from one side of the room to the next. For a moment I realized I didn’t have Stacy’s cell phone number – all arrangements had been made on Twitter and a Facebook Events page. I hoped I had the right place.
“Stacy?” I asked, but I knew it was her.
We gave each other a big hug even though we had never seen each other in “real life” before. I felt like I was catching up with a friend from college. She is a wonderful writer, a wise person. Within minutes our discussion entered the deep realms of relationships and writing, raising children and theology.
Later in the night many of Stacy’s other writer friends joined us. I even got to meet Billy Collins, a two-term Unites States poet laureate. We all became fast friends, based simply on our common friend. Which was based simply on internet interactions.
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Some people would point to my “real life” meetings with these previously internet-only friends as proof that there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. But I would disagree. You see, I think our ability to relate so quickly when we first met is not evidence that meeting in person is better – I think it’s evidence that the relationship we had formed up to that point on the internet was genuine. It was just as real and effective and beneficial as any relationship predicated on a handshake, or a smile, or a hello. Meeting in person only served as an extension to an already existing friendship.
What do you think about friendships based solely on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter? What has been your experience when you met people in “real life” for the first time?
- Social Media Use At Work (spinsucks.com)
- You Don’t Have to Be Everybody’s Friend: How to Balance Public, Private, and Social Media (community.constantcontact.com)
- The Serious Goings-On Behind The Social Networking Scene (waxingunlyrical.com)
- It’s a Sign! Social Media and the Art of Awareness and Gentle Reminders (inklingmedia.net)