We toss around the word friendship on the internet all the time. Are the people we talk about our friends, or our acquaintences? Are they people we would be close friends with if we lived in more geographically similar locations, or are they the “Easter-Christmas” friends we see a couple times a year?
Social networking sites like twitter and facebook help create this illusion of friendship and closeness, but does that make us freinds in the same way childhood friends are friends? Are these the people who will gladly drop verything to lend us a hand, or are they people who back away quickly and say “Well, good luck with that!”
What’s even more difficult is when you have a problem develop with someone in this category of internet friends. Do you tell them about it, or let it go? Do you let it fester, or clear the matter up and move on? Does this damage the friendship, and if so, how can you repair it, assuming you’d like to?
I value the friends most that I can have heated debates with, often disagreeing, but in the end, we respect each oter and our positions more. I’d rather deal with issues up front and honestly, than let them fester.
Yet, with internet friends, we don’t have the same history we have with real world friends, so reading body language, facial expressions and the nuance that goes along with other sorts of communication is lost. You can make a poor word choice, and magnify a slight into a huge would, and likewise underplay more serious problems by trying to spare feelings.
I treasure the rich and wonderful relationships I’ve developed through the web and social media, but I am rubbish at dealing with conflict easily and with proper nuance through email.
Sometimes I miss the plain old telephone.