Life through my myopic eyes.

Cyber “Friends”


Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

Image via CrunchBase

In this cyber-age we live in our social circles are exponentially bigger than they would normally be. They are bigger because of social networking and the various sites on the web that encourage folks with similar interests to hook up and talk about their interests.

Facebook, Twitter, Bebo, MySpace, and all of the ‘second cousins’ of these social networking sites encourage us to join groups with other people that have things in common. Even YouTube is being used, to a degree and quite incorrectly, as a social meeting place.

Of course Facebook always stipulates that you should really know the person that you are either requesting to be your friend or vice versa. But in reality, how many of our internet “friends” do we really know? I would be willing to bet a substantial amount of cash that the answer is, not many.

A few years ago having thousands of friends on Facebook was considered a sort of status symbol by young people. Kids were having competitions to see who could get the most friends on their homepage. For all I know they still do.

But things have changed a bit in the world of Facebook. It is no longer considered just a meeting place for your real friends. Statuses are posted that are, for the most part, homogenized and carefully vetted to make sure that too much personal information is not put up for perusal. More personal items are discussed via messaging.

Facebook is now a place where fans can join their favourite actor’s, or fill-in-blank-here, page as a show of support and talk to other folks who like the same ‘celebrity.’ The actual owner of said page may or may not interact with their fans.

FB (sorry but, continually typing out Facebook was getting annoying) is also used for folks to show support for other reasons. Singers, artists, musicians, YouTube channel presenters are just some of the folks who use FB as a means of talking to their “friends” or supporters.

Unfortunately because of the ease of interacting with people we will most probably never meet, some people can become quite demanding of their internet buddies. As the old saying goes, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’ It also breeds an assumption of ‘real’ friendship.

This is, in actuality, an illusion created by the very medium that allows us to befriend strangers across the globe. Film and television help to perpetuate this illusion. Internet dating sites are constantly being touted on TV and films like You’ve Got E-Mail also tend to romanticize relationships that are made over the net.

But what happens when the lines blur? What happens when your new internet pal starts making demands on your time or starts treating you like a best friend who is threatening to stray?

Or what happens when your new buddy starts joining all the groups you belong to and sends friend requests to people you really know or are part of your ‘close’ social networking circle?

It starts becoming invasive, intrusive and not a little cyber-stalker-ish. But that is the pitfall and the danger of making internet friends. Unlike real life, where we can see the signs that tell us our ‘friend’ is becoming a little too interested or obsessed, the internet hides a lot.

This new age of cyber friendship can be fun and enjoyable for everyone as long as lines aren’t crossed. By treating your internet buddy like a real friend who you have actually known and interacted with in real life can be the death of that cyber relationship.

Because whether we like it or not what people put forward on these social networking sites is their ‘best’ or public face. To be more succinct, they use their polite stance when talking to folks. *Unless they are a troll. If they are a troll, all bets are off. They just want to act, well, trollish.*

And just like in real life, we cannot fall into the trap of assuming that we really know our web pals. Because, we don’t What we know is their cyber self. And that may or may not be who they really are.

Friendship bracelet

Friendship bracelet (Photo credit: petr cervinka)

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Categorised in: Culture, Internet, Personal, Reflective, Social

14 Responses »

  1. There seem’s to me to be an inverse correlation between the number of face book friends a person has and the number of actual friends. The new world poses new problems, we will just have to adapt or go for the wild bunch ending.

  2. So far, every “friend” I’ve met on the internet and then in person has fizzled. I keep figuring that sooner or later, I’ll make a “real” friend online. Just, when? In this life or the next?

    • After watching an episode of the ‘true life’ Nightmares in Suburbia (English telly) I doubt that I’d ever try to meet anyone I’d met on line! Seriously though, it seems that more people now-a-days concentrate on portraying them selves on-line as they ‘want’ to be seen and not how they really are. I think they do this because it is so easily done.

  3. Don’t know what to tell ya teepee, maybe your not representing your self accurately or maybe your looking in the wrong places, all I know is it’s a tough old world and friendships are like pot plants, you have to tend to them or they die off.

  4. I actually have two friends (one of which I’ve met) that I met and almost exclusively interact with online. I guess it’s part of the walls of a generation (they are several years younger than me and I am weeks away from 30) but even 10 years ago, during the MySpace era, there was still a stigma of meeting people online or talking to people offline that you met online. I guess that line will eventually keep blurring before it fades away completely.
    I will say that my Facebook presence is very well-manicured, I am friends with several of my fellow employees, including my director, and relatives, so I have to be a bit censored, so to speak.

    • Exactly my point. We have come to rely on the internet via Facebook, twitter, et al to build and maintain our social circles. I have a lot of work mates on my social sites that I see almost every day along with folks I know only through the net. The stigma of meeting folks from the internet is slowly becoming a thing of the past as more ‘success’ stories emerge of net pals meeting, marrying and mating. :-D

      • Indeed – Great thinking points. It will be weird to look back in just a few short years to see what Facebook has changed socially in our actual lives.

      • I think it’s weird now. I’m 54 in just over a months time and there are so many things around that didn’t exist except in the world of fiction when I was a boy. We live in such strange and wonderful times. I look back and wonder how we ever lived with out mobile (cell) phones! LOL

  5. The possibilities that any new tech or significant advance brings are often exciting and disturbing in equal measure, I’m still fairly new to all this, I held out as long as I could but in the end I got on board and I’m glad I did. It’s opened up thing’s to me that I would not have had access to otherwise, everthing from work, foreign films, too just chatting with you fine folk. That said I still think we should be careful about where all this could take us. Give ‘em hell Pike!!!

    • Anybody who can quote from Wild Bunch definitely falls in the friend not foe category. Yet your allegory or metaphor (I am forever getting those mixed up) is brilliantly accurate. I feel kind of like those guys in the film. Autumnal (almost) and sometimes struggling to keep up with the changing times and people. Brilliant point mate. Cheers

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