Friday, January 28, 2011

Online to Offline: Can Online Friendship Be Real?

A man (not sure about women) usually reaches a certain age when it becomes difficult to make friends, unless of course you are in a job that requires you to make friends (maybe security intelligence?). In fact when I think of it, after college, the friends that I have made have mostly been work related, either because we worked for the same company or our work brought us together. And when I started having a family of my own, dividing my time between my wife and kids and my employer made it even more difficult to have friends. I have actually moved in and out of a few neighborhoods over the last few years and each time I have moved, I have discovered that I am hardly leaving any friends behind.

The art of making new friendships have however been given a new dimension by social networking. At first, I was not enthusiastic about social networking and saw it as another of those internet inventions that is designed to take away valuable time that I could have been spending reading or doing something more meaningful. In fact, I argued a lot about the notion of actually meeting people online and thinking that it could lead to any meaningful offline relationships. No guessing then for my feelings about online dating and the likes. After a lot of encouragement from a friend, I got into MySpace sometimes in 2006 and after a few weeks I had even forgotten my log in details. I was then harangued my a number of friends and eventually got into Facebook sometimes in 2008. What Facebook did however was to bring up all the school and college friends I had even forgotten ever existed. Suddenly I was having friend requests from people I had not even thought about for 15 years. It helped renew some old acquaintances but for a majority of these, after the first greetings we have barely communicated except wish one a happy birthday when Facebook reminds you it is their birthday. So I wonder whether it is really worth it in the first place. For me, Facebook is more about maintaining friendships not making some new ones. Sometimes people you don’t know will send you a friend request but I am never sure whether to ignore or accept.

Last year, after reading about all the hype about twitter, I decided to give it a try. After a few days I almost gave up but once I found interesting people to follow and learned what retweeting meant and how to shorten url links, I found it was actually more interesting than Facebook, that is in times of meeting new interesting people. Unlike Facebook where you have to accept friend request before you know this stranger who has decided to connect with you, with twitter, you just followed someone, decided it was not worth it and promptly unfollowed. Within time you actually start making conversations with people whose interests cross with yours. I was thus actually surprised when I found myself actually meeting some of the friends I made online and that turned my earlier belief that you cannot make offline connections with people you meet online.

I still believe that online connections should largely remain online (I am conservative like that) but if perchance you think you have made some interesting connections that can go offline, why not?

"Real friendship is exchanging secrets, rolling over like a puppy and exposing the soft underbelly. You tell your friend the truth, and you feel the friendship growing - like a bank account - with each upfront opinion you give, with each honest answer you hear." - Adair Lara, Cosmopolitan

A former schoolmate recently posted this photo, which we took about 19 years ago, on Facebook and tagged us. Suddenly characters emerged after 19 years to post comments. That is what Facebook can do. I will of course not point out who is me on the photo.


  1. Its a whole new world isn't it?
    I joined Facebook 2 years ago - mostly to reconnect to people from a dim and distant past ... I have a few friends there that I have met through blogging but most of them are people I know in Real Life, what I think is odd is when friends of mine (who have no connection to one another) become friends because they have met on my Facebook page.
    I have some interesting "conversations" with fellow bloggers but the idea of On-Line Dating leaves me cold I am afraid. As for Twitter I think its a Man Thing!

  2. LOL, I love this post and I love the old photo. I won't try to guess which one you are in it. You've brought up some good points here about whether online friends can become offline friends. I truly think they can but as for me I think it happens through blogging rather than through FB or Twitter. Through blogging you get to connect with people who share common interests and in that way it is very much like making friends off line. Having said that I've yet to "meet" one of my on line friends though I have every expectation that will happen in it's time. I am not even actually on FB though I did us Twitter and have let it lag. I like Twitter a lot but I do not like the fact that all your tweets are forever in cyberspace cluttering up the air somewhere up there, lol. Look for some of your own tweets and you'll see what I mean.

  3. The social networking has changed the equation of friendships. Now we know what our ol' buddies are upto. But it's quite a superficial relationship.
    After graduation a few years ago, I have found it tough to make friends. I am nt that popular in workplace.
    This is the point of time I realise the value of nuturing relations

  4. I'm still on the fence on this. You know, expectations online, disappointment offline. I do take my time (as in don't-meet-if-you-don't-have-to kind of time) meeting people. I've met a handful and it's been splendid so far. I've been lucky. But I'm with you. I'm not too keen on shifting online connections offline. Avoids unnecessary complications. I take friendships too seriously to risk that. But then again, I'm old school like that :D

  5. Too bad. I thought you would tell us who you were in the photograph. Now to the post: It is amazing what Facebook can do. A guy who was in love with me in school found me through FB and I was just speechless. Ofcourse there are people who are absolute strangers who request your friendship which I promptly ignore. But the factor of time is something I cannot reckon with these networking sites. They consume a lot of time and energy. Sometimes I do strongly feel that I should deactivate my account. All said and done, I have made some great friends through Facebook as well as blogging.

    Joy always,

  6. I have so many thoughts and feelings myself about this topic. I have been so frustrated at times and found online networking like FB something I absolutely don't enjoy. At first it was fun but I really believe it cheapens conversation and rather than bring us closer it allows us to assume we know someone without really taking the time to do so.
    Where as with blogging, my experience has been wonderful. I have come across such wonderful and interesting people and I have to say that the level of respect and courtesy exceeds that I experience in real life with most people.:)
    I think online communication can bring people together but at the same time, at least to me, nothing beats real life conversation and company...although I do believe that it is getting rarer to find.

    Have a wonderful weekend with your family! God bless!

  7. Reading through the comments I see most think that blogging is the avenue to meet people in a more serious manner, I guess being that through blogging maybe there is more space for expression and maybe better judgment of character? Thanks all for the really well thought out comments!

  8. Susan Deborah, I agree with you on the part of time...sometimes I cannot really keep up with all the conversation and it is not unusual for me to go missing online for a few days!

  9. i will just say go with the wind

  10. Winds of change. Even the very essence of friendship has now changed into something more superficial. For those who have only gotten to know friendship in the twitter and FB age, things are totally different.

    It could help in that when you have so many ‘friends’, when you meet real deep ones you hold them really special. Dunno.

    I’ve met more tweeps than I’ve met bloggers, and yet bloggers are the ones I share deeper friendships with. Still online but outside of twitter. Interesting because as much as they’re also on twitter, we don’t engage in daily prattle on public timeline, rather actually tend to ignore each other totally except for the occasional greeting.

  11. It really is one of those never-ending debates. I guess it boils down to how effectively one can use the power of these portals. True, it's not the same as the real thing. But there are somethings that would have never happened if Facebook and Twitter didn't exist.

    Btw, your blog is really, really good! Some posts deeply moved me.

  12. Hey,

    I don't know why I never met you around blogosphere, I have been hanging around it for years :)!

    I have made friends online that went to be very good friends offline, but we had a lot of things in common to being with. Most we discovered knew the same people, grew up int eh same town, etc. Those were MySpace days however, and maybe I was even younger...

    On Facebook however, I do add people who i have more than 20 people in common with, but i find that after the first hi on the chat, nothing much is said afterwards. I do still make friends online, but most of them stay there- online- unless i knew them offline to being with-- like you!

  13. Surana, thanks for the visit and comment, glad to hear you like the blog :)

  14. Nate's Girl - Ok, this is interesting, the stuff we don't know about each other! Now that I know your blog, I will maybe learn more stuff about you!

  15. Shiko and sm, thanks for your comments! Appreciated. I agree to some extent about going with the wind but I also tend to check which side the wind is blowing!

  16. I can almost see the surprise on your face :)

    I agree, there is much to learn! Crazy though that I feel like this is another side of you that is so new, like I am meeting a different person! In my mind, you are C... formely of FAI.. you know?

  17. Still trying to get the hang of Twitter...

    I like what you said on Project 44 "If I am a single soul, I would simply treat the internet as just another avenue of interacting with people and hopefully I might find the right person. Rather than go for dating sites, I would instead go to more interactive forums where people discuss all and sundry and hopefully strike some good friendships over there."