I have a number of friends whose lives I’m only kept abreast of via their social media profiles. Facebook and Twitter: What they say there is what I know about them.
Rewind a few years, and I know these friends in other, more substantial capacities. We had relationships that extended beyond the screen into apartments, workplaces, bars… you get the point. But as happens with high school and college graduations, we dispersed and now freckle the country, our only regular coming together happening on a Twitter or Facebook feed.
It’s one thing to know a person on- and offline. It’s another thing to exclusively know a person online. I’m a big proponent of the power of social media, coming to its defensive every time someone calls it shallow, alienating or a waste of time. I believe it makes us a more connected, informed people, ideally moving us all to care and act for the betterment of society and the world at large. Still, even my social media-loving self cannot deny the following downfall:
Among the friends I only interact with online is a person I’ll call Donna (I’ve been watching a lot of “The West Wing” lately). Donna and I are friends from college: We worked together, went out together. The friendship never reached the “I know I can go to you for whatever I need” level, but I still considered us close.
For the standard reasons—new jobs, new cities, blah blah blah—we lost touch after graduation. In the past year, we’ve seen each other once. The reality is nothing to be broken up over, though it does mean our relationship has been distilled down to what we convey online (whether or not you even deem that a relationship is your call).
The other day Donna tweeted about a band, announcing her dislike for their “unoriginal” sound. For no good reason, I found the comment obnoxious, even getting a little worked up over it (It’s worth noting the band in question is not one I listen to). It took some time for me to realize that most of Donna’s posts to Twitter and Facebook are negative (or enough are negative for me to recall the majority as such), and what had felt like an over-the-top reaction to her musical commentary was actually the consequence of her constant complaints.