Outside Facebook, Would We Be Friends?

I “Like”  Facebook!

would-we-friends

I not only have my Author’s page, I have a personal page and I administer a couple of special-interest groups.

My “friend” * network is not huge, but it’s rainbow diverse.

  • There are gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgenders, as well as some who might not claim any of those labels. You'll also meet some fabulous drag queens. It includes people who are conflicted, confused, undeclared…and yes, some who are straight.
     
  • There are people of various faith persuasions: Jewish, Buddhist, generalist/spiritualist, those who claim no religious inclination and a veritable “granola bar” of assorted Christians—Baptists, Catholics, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Methodists and all flavors in between.
     
  • Politically my network runs the gamut from Libertarian to Democrat, liberals, conservatives, moderates…and even a few who support the Tea Party. (Election season is never dull!)
     
  • The “zoo” includes folks who love cats, dogs, a few adamant horse lovers and one who has a pet hedgehog.
     
  • Age is just a number, but my friends include those in most every stage of life, from just out of college to...well, older. (I do not have any in my list who are under age 18.)
     
  • It’s a smorgasbord of taste cuisines, with carnivores, vegetarians, vegans, low carb-ers, no gluten and plenty who eat much healthier than I do. I have a smoking-hot chef who posts amazing pictures of his scrumptious creations, and I even have a few who eat at Chic-Fil-A, in spite of all my protests! <shudder>
     
  • I have “friends” of many races, nationalities and ethnicities, and from all over the globe--Australia, England, Germany, Canada, Africa and even New Jersey.

Because of Facebook, I've been able to engage some of my favorite writers/authors, and interact with an actor who starred in one my favorite shows many years ago. (That is so cool!) I've had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with some nationally known political activists and had conversations with people who've made significant impact in matters that are important to me. Because of my involvement in various Facebook groups, I’ve had the opportunity to help those who've been hurt and rejected by family and churches. I like that!

I enjoy the interaction and the interesting discussions of my “friend” network. There are times when I’m challenged and times when I’m inspired. There are also those times when I’m infuriated! I’m protective of my page and the exchanges. I don’t allow nudity, discourage excess profanity and will confront anyone who is disrespectful to others (or me) in a thread.

When I first joined Facebook, I was amazed at the people who started popping up—some I’d not heard from in decades. They came from previous jobs, organizations, schools and churches. It was a bit daunting. I admit to more than a little reluctance. And I would ask myself: is connecting with those from our past…especially our distant past…a good idea? (Did we learn nothing from Ebenezer Scrooge about “ghosts” of the past?) I’m certainly not the same person I was 20, 30 or 40 years ago.

The entire scenario made me ask: if we met today and got to know one another, would we be friends? After all, aside from proximity at some point in history, what might we have in common today?

Example: I see “friends” post things on their page that make me seethe! I’m certain some of my posts collide with their belief systems, too. (Let’s call it “the bi-lateral cringe dynamic!”) I'm a pacifists, and see posts about guns or war or violence that make my heart sick. I read posts from "friends" that demean women, minorities or races. I have Facebook “friends” who support candidates, churches, groups, causes and businesses that exclude (and vilify) the gay and lesbian community…which includes me!  We are “friends” on Facebook, but outside of our virtual connection, they don’t support ME, and frequently work against my best interests.

Would I be friends in “real life” with someone who thinks my life is immoral and that I'm hell-bound? Would I hang out with a person who works to exclude me as a viable part of society, or to outlaw my relationship?

Personal Note: I’m not looking for confrontation about friendship, and I’m not pushing to purge my “friend” list. Happily, I can say in most cases, I’m glad for the re-connection to some dear, wonderful friends. But it can and does have challenges. I quickly discovered that some who “friended” me were only interested in the version of ME they once knew and were convinced God had called them to “straighten” me out spiritually, morally…and literally. The conflict on my page escalated, along with my blood pressure.  Needless to say, most of those connections didn't last. (It’s why I now send a Disclaimer to everyone who sends me a friend request so they can come in with their eyes open. Hopefully, it will prevent culture shock for them and drama for me.)

On the other hand, I can’t dismiss the depth of connection I've made on Facebook with folks I've never met face to face nor share a history. They are people that I have come to respect, trust, value…and care about. And they seem to return the same affections and interest in me. They check on me when I'm absent for a while, they show concern when I'm hurting and they encourage me when I'm down. Our bond goes beyond Internet interaction, and I believe that if I met them today, we would be actual friends. 

Some tell me I’m over-thinking it (Who, me?) and that’s the nature of Facebook; it’s not reality nor a substitute for actual relationships, so I shouldn't take it too seriously. And I do think we allow (excuse, endure, overlook) things on Facebook because it’s not supposed to be real.

But it’s interesting to ponder.
People I knew many years ago, and people I've only met online.
Are we friends, beyond the Facebook designation? 

I guess it depend on the definition…and expression…of the word “friend,” doesn't it?

Personally, I think the world would be a better place if people with vastly different beliefs, backgrounds, perspectives, and opinions could come together in one place, interact with respect and be willing to listen to and learn from one another.

Is that place Facebook?
Maybe not, but it's a start.

 

* When I put the word “friend” in quotation marks, it’s to indicate the use of the word in context of the Facebook platform. I am not calling into question those who are my friends, not seeking to diminish our friendship. In fact, I am trying to make a distinction.

 

 

 

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