So last week I touched on the difference between real and online friends – it was a topic on the radio show, and there was split opinion. I am firmly in the ‘internet friends are real friends’ while my co host feels that they are entirely separate creatures. Now, I use social media a lot, and there are a variety of friends, some are purely online, and I am unlikely to ever meet them. Others are people I have known for years, but am no longer geographically close to, others are work friends, current and old, there are networking friends, of course, there are people who actually realise I am not a cat, and see through my filtered photos on I.G.
As touched on in a recent blog, social media can be a lifeline for many – there is someone you can speak to, you can let your hair down, be yourself without the same responsibilities that you have in your ‘real life’ there is a reason after call, the phrase ‘on the internet, nobody knows you are a cat’ was coined. I have moved around so much in my life, although I am finally (touch wood) settled, it has meant I don’t have the same support network that many of my peers seem to enjoy. It is nice to know that I can still keep in touch with people I have met and shared my life with. One thing that I have realised – Social Media can be a fantastic support tool. I really wish I had had this support network in my early twenties. Since a lot of us move around, and don’t have the friends and family close enough to lean on, I have realised what a great help it can be. Being in groups of people who may have similar interests but not necessarily same life experiences, or opinions. That can help, advise, offer opinions, or even just understand what you are going through. And often, being able to type out something in its entirely without interruption, worry that you are boring someone, and getting opinions of several people and not just one person. It can be great because you will not always just get the answer you are looking for.
It is odd, I am actually more likely to have you as a FB contact than your phone number. Asking for someone’s number to me, feels very intrusive but FB … it is all there. You have a degree of control over what people see. And it requires as little or as much investment as you want. How many people do you add and never hear a peep from? And what about when you don’t hear back from people – it is that strange situation – ‘ghosting’ is the term I believe – where people are there … but not there. With people you see, or don’t see, it is easier to reconcile the situation, you grew apart, life got in the way, it wasn’t really a strong bond. When it is on line, the amount of investment, certainly in time and effort, is much less so to be ‘dumped’ by someone online… it feels worse? I mean what does the occasional like hurt? Just check in with a comment once in awhile?
I love my on line community – I have had so many opportunities, and learnt so much – for example, if it wasn’t for the amazing RoxyLee (ROxyLee’s FB page) I would not have been so inspired by Special FX makeup. She took the time to not only share her amazing work, but talked me through a number of techniques, and was just so happy to help. But I do view facebook as a tool, as an opportunity to network. And it is important to remember it is nothing more than a tool and not a replacement for human contact.
RoxyLee as Harley shot by SuperHero Creations by Adam Jay
But as much as I adore my on line friendships and community, it is important to stay connected in real terms – in a recent magazine article it looked at how social loneliness is one of the biggest issue facing society- so a couple of points to remember. It isn’t important how many people you have on your friends list if you never go and see them. Make sure you are making dates to go meet people, shopping, having a coffee etc. When you are alone, utilise it, pamper yourself, read that book you have been meaning to for ages, do some exercise, craft. Remember that if you feel lonely, it is because you need a social connection. Even if your friends are available (real life can be a complete bitch like that) maybe find something new to do. Local councils offer a wide range of short courses, you could sign up to a gym, join a class, pop into your local book shop and ask for advice on new reads, go to events organised by local businesses. Try old interests and new. And at this time of year, there are lots of opportunity to volunteer and help people, shelters, soup kitchens etc. So you will be helping people and meeting new people. Win/win situation 🙂
Thank you for reading, I hope this has made sense!
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