I've noticed something interesting recently: I've maintained relationships with friends and colleagues thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. While that may sound Captain Obvious to you, I believe it's under-appreciated how this era of online connectivity is fostering bonds to one another that would've dissipated in a more analogue time.
We all know platforms such as Facebook allow us to keep friendships that may not be construed as our inner circle. I have more than 1,200 "Friends" and of course only around 5% of them are those I see regularly or semi-regularly, either in person or online. But if Facebook or Insta didn't exist, would I really be keeping those links alive and healthy? Probably not, much like our parents may not have been able to stay in touch with friends overseas in the 80s and 90s. The intentions may have been there, but the logistics were too difficult to overcome.
Now that we can send a Facebook Message to a buddy living in San Jose, instead of penning a letter and waiting two weeks for a reply, keeping those relationships going is simple and seamless. That's why I think today's users of Facebook and other platforms will develop stronger relationships to what I call outside friends - they aren't living in your community or even close enough to call up once in awhile. Outside friends are those orbiting outside that inner sanctum and instead are folks you want to keep in touch with, somehow, but you may not have the kind of face time (or FaceTime) that you have with closer friends.
The conflicting argument is that these relationships are ephemeral and unsubstantial due to a DM's lack of intimacy. "That can't place a coffee date or 30-minute chat on the phone!" some of you cry out. I'm not arguing that; rather, look at friends you may not have ever wondered about in a Facebook-less world, but thanks to social media you can stay in touch and heck, maybe even invite for a coffee date if you visit their hometown or they visit yours.
I've long believed that social media doesn't replace in-person relationships but instead fosters a new kind of connectedness that can be very foreign to those not accustomed to anything but in-person hangs. And I've long thought that's a good thing to bring to the world, even if you never want to log onto Facebook for such relationship maintenance. It might not be for you, but it's right for other folks.
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