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.
- Social Media Strategy: “I don’t think my audience is using social media.” (digitalsurgeons.com)
- Help Protect your kids online! (mylittlemr.com)
- Cyber crooks infiltrate social networking sites (rant4u.com)
- cyber bogeys (telegraphindia.com)
- Facebook Search improves engagement and challenges Twitter (digitalsurgeons.com)
- FACEBOOK AND POLITICS | Do they mix? Yes, no, maybe? (virtualmarketingofficer.com)
- Friendship Day: 10 rules of dosti in social media (ibnlive.in.com)
- Increase in cyber extortion cases by female foreigners (todayonline.com)
- Get All Your Sugar on Bebo!!! (fabsugar.com)
- Indian cyber silence: Journalists muted after race riots (rt.com)