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Virtual Friendships

May 21, 2009
Debra Lordan · Editor/General Manager

It’s a safe haven for the socially challenged. It’s a germ-free way to visit your friends during flu season—a hospital for terminally geeky, where visiting hours never end. It’s an all-night, electronic party-in-a-box—a virtual, voyeuristic celebration every day of the week. It’s a den of dynamic conversation—the ultimate soiree of the 21st century.

Facebook is on the “IntraWeb,” in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last few years (apparently, with me, until recently). Facebook is a social utility that connects people—all kinds of people, all over the world. What began as a small, intercampus network a few years ago has skyrocketed to become a network of 64 million users worldwide.

I was leery of Facebook, not only because it seemed like a colossal time sink (which it is), but because it seemed like the perfect depository for embarrassing photos and jabs from those who would not otherwise confront you. But unlike some of the Internet’s free-for-all, no-holds-barred formats where smack talk and cyber sniper fire are launched cruelly and anonymously, Facebook seems to be good-spirited and entertaining.

Facebook enables you to network easily and reconnect with family, friends, classmates and coworkers. It is an instant and far-reaching communication tool, allowing users to communicate more often, more effectively and more efficiently. You can keep tabs on your friends, friends of your friends… and their friends, too. Facebook provides endless opportunities to communicate with folks you don’t see as often as you’d like.

You can chat online if you have Gmail, keep track of significant events and take amusing, character-revealing quizzes. And Facebook is crammed with enough sassy applications to accommodate even the shortest attention span.

If you’re not fast with a snappy comeback, you’ll love Facebook. You can respond at your leisure and take a day or two to craft your clever commentary or sizzling bon mot.

In the olden days, “social utilities” were called “parties” with music, dancing, alcohol and more, and plenty of one-on-one, live human-to-human action. Woo hoo! Now, you can just type out glib comments from the comfort of your couch and send virtual margaritas to some lucky recipient. It’s certainly less expensive than “contact” socializing and you’re in no danger of contracting anything—including a DUI.

Of course, meeting a friend for a person-to-person conversation is the ideal. That’s the stuff of real friendships. But it’s not happening for a lot of us who have had to work pretty darned hard to make it even when the economy is booming....

But if you’re finding yourself spending so many solitary hours Twittering, Facebooking, blogging, MySpacing and YouTubing to your virtual friends that you forsake real-world activities and conversations, then, Houston, we have a problem.

Let’s not get so caught up in trying to craft the perfect online persona that we substitute it for real, face-to-face interpersonal exchange.

A special shout-out to all my new Facebook friends, who inspired this editorial.



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