What is the reality of online friendships? Is it possible to make friends through social media? Today I’m sharing what I perceive to be the problem with making friends over the Internet.
I always thought I had a lot of friends, especially since there are so many pals I’ve made while blogging. Last year I wrote a letter To My Friends Who I’ve Never Met, thanking so many followers for their friendship. The funny thing is over the last few months I have realized some so-called friends are more like acquaintances than the real thing.
It’s easy to believe a relationship formed over social media is the real deal.
As an active Instagram storyteller, I share a lot about my personal life with strangers. My posts spark conversation and often lead to lengthy discussions with new people I’ve never met. After weeks of interacting virtually it’s so easy to believe a real friendship has been formed. I’ve been on the other side of things too – direct messaging someone I don’t know, connecting through a common topic, and later believing we are friends.
What about the inevitable disappointment associated with assuming a new online acquaintance is a true friend?
There have been many times I’ve connected with someone online, whole heartedly believing we are more than just acquaintances. Through one instance or another, I ultimately discover our friendship is surface level. The conversations had were nowhere as deep as I imagined. Social media is therefore to blame for so many false friendship impressions.
After frequent conversations on social media evolve into daily text messages, one may feel a friendship has bloomed. Despite the impersonality of communicating via written word, relationships can, and have been, formed online. However, it really is difficult to know how someone truly feels without ever hearing their voice. We all know inflection and emotion in a text is nearly impossible regardless of letter size or emoji usage.
It’s easy to believe online friendships are genuine and long-lasting.
We can’t help but question “human authenticity” when it comes to social media. Some of my online friends’ “I’m always here for you” promises have turned out to be weightless. It’s apparent when the favor I ask of her goes unfulfilled. Ultimately I find myself faced with the reality that the girl I talk with everyday doesn’t really think of me as her friend. I’m more of an acquaintance – just another follower on the receiving end of quick and kind replies.
It’s a hard realization when you discover you’ve been used by someone for their own devices.
According to the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, there are three types of friendship (source). When it comes to “online friendships” – which one do you think applies best?
- Friendships of utility – exist between people who are of use to one another (ex. work friends).
- Friendships of pleasure – exist between people who enjoy each other’s company (ex. activity buddies).
- Friendships of the good – based on mutual respect and admiration. These take the longest to build, but are more powerful and enduring. They also go beyond utility and pleasure.
I think it’s very obvious that Friendships of Utility are the majority of what evolves from social media.
One could argue she has made plenty of friendships of the good, but that’s not always the case. When bloggers connect its most often to share each others’ content and rarely does the relationship progress. I’ve allowed myself to feel hurt countless times by my blogger peers when I give and give, but never get back.
Whoever decided Instagram engagement to be a defining factor in a friendship should be slapped. That’s why there is a big issue with considering whomever you meet online a real friend. There is an illusion of camaraderie created by likes, shares, and comments when many interactions are simple business moves. The old adage, “You scratch my back then I’ll scratch yours” is easily forgotten as people grow on social media.
In the end I find it important to acknowledge that you CAN make true friends online. Some of the most wonderful relationships in my life started as online friendships. But consider this – if a person you’re calling a friend wouldn’t say the same about you, rethink your relationship.
Thank you for writing this, Caitlin. This resonates with me in many ways and I cannot express how much I appreciate your honesty, and accuracy, on this topic. THANK YOU!
Carla DuPont says
Your post today is so relevant & something I’ve thought about as a person who’s on the opposite side of your blogging universe. I follow a handful of bloggers. Five to be exact. Like you, who you choose to collaborate with, content, values, aesthetic & a sense of humor are what are important to me. I didn’t seek out more friends via bloggers & I 100% agree with you that it’s a slippery slope. My relationships with all of these special women have evolved organically & are different, but similar, in many ways. I respect all of them tremendously & have learned so much from them as strong, competent, creative & compassionate human beings. Although I truly feel like I have genuine connections with each of them, I sometimes wonder what they really think of me? What I say is authentic & I’m a loyal, fierce friend. I don’t open up to just anyone. Still, I wonder. A certain someone has become very dear to me & we’ve been there for each other through different challenges & yet, we’ve never met.
I do have to say that I met the best friend I’ve ever had online and then we had the chance to meet face to face and became even better friends. She was there with me the day my mother died and she’s more family than most people to whom I’m connected by DNA. Of course a lot of people are going to be fly-by-night, but I have found that’s true in offline relationships as well. Sad, but true. I’m sorry you’ve been let down when you really needed people to be there.
I feel like I could’ve written this post and in fact, I feel like I’ve wanted to but just didn’t know how to say it. I feel this 100%. I have met some wonderful people online but I have also met many more than I thought were friends only to discover otherwise. I have been used more times than I can count for information, contacts, idea, etc. And for a long time, I gave all of it away because I thought that’s what friends did. But I never got anything back and once I stopped doing that, they stopped coming around. It’s a good lesson learned and has shown me what I need to work on for myself. But I definitely agree that true friendships take time to grow – it’s harder as you get older but not impossible 🙂
Kelly Francis says
Gahhh this paragraph: “Whoever decided Instagram engagement to be a defining factor in a friendship should be slapped… There is an illusion of camaraderie created by likes, shares, and comments when many interactions are simple business moves. The old adage, “You scratch my back then I’ll scratch yours” is easily forgotten as people grow on social media.“ So much truth to this! To all of it, but that especially resonated with me.
Thank you so much for sharing this because I can relate to this in so many ways! I’ve met some amazing people through social media and on-line!
cute & little
Sarah Lindner says
Great post. It’s one of the reasons I don’t share all aspects of my personal life online….you just never know! Thank you for sharing this, xoxo. Sarah
An interesting perspective. I met my best friend on Instagram, over 6 years ago now. And she was in my wedding. In fact, several of my closest friends over the years were met on Instagram or other online outlets. That’s primarily due to the fact that I’m a serious introvert and homebody, and don’t have many “IRL” relationships aside from ones I’ve had since childhood. I guess for some it’s harder to cultivate real friendships online, but for me, because I’m just a downright genuine person who wears their heart on their sleeve and doesn’t hide anything away, it’s a little easier to form authentic, deep friendships.
Carrington | Chaos and Coffee says
This is a great post! I’ve met some truly great people online through blogging and social media and I love how it can bring people together like that. Xx.
this is a great post. we put so much of ourselves out there online that it makes it both easy and hard to make social media friendships! I see a lot of other bloggers go on trips etc together, but i am just not sure that’s something I would want to do (pre-covid of course) We have definitely made connections with others online, but not sure how close I would really say that we are. for now, it helps that our blog is a duo!
Auntie M says
All good points. I, personally, find my best friends are ones I have met personally and shared direct communication with first. The internet makes staying in touch with these friends easier. My true friendships have all stood the test of time & adversity. When we do get together…despite years of not being together, it is like we never missed a day with each other!
Tanvi Rastogi says
I like what you said here, “if a person you’re calling a friend wouldn’t say the same about you, rethink your relationship.” I needed to hear that.
Laura Leigh says
I actually met my very best friend online/through blogging and now hang out regularly! Ended up introducing her to her husband! Think there’s a lot of truth to what you said and a lot of people that don’t have the truest of intentions but think you can meet some really amazing genuine people as well! As you said, ones that will call you friend as well!
xo Laura Leigh
Anna English says
Ah! I loved reading this one, thanks for sharing!
I’ve struggled with some of this too, especially in the pandemic. I will say two of my good friends I’ve met through blogging. We take trips to see each other, facetime and talk about thinks other than blogging! But I think that’s rare thing.
Adaleta Avdic says
This was super interesting to read because I do think there is a level that we all believe we do have hundreds of friends online, but it is surface level. The utility of us being on social media is what gets us to chat everyday, so it’s really interesting to see this post and kind of dissect it a bit more. I definitely have a LOT of utility which is totally fine, since I have my day to day friends IRL 🙂