Friends. What a wonderful concept. Everyone hopes to have at least one. There are actually psychological studies affirming the value of friendship. That affirmation comes with caveats – such as your friend has to actually like you for who you are. Cyber friendships on social networking sites bring all of the joys and pitfalls of relationships to us in micro seconds.
I freely admit here that I have joined facebook – my children seem to think that communicating by way of internet social networking boards is adequate. My children are not likely to call me to tell me of changing jobs or moving to another State – but they will post on their facebook page. There is a remote possibility that I have more grandchildren than I am presently aware of – so I have to pause here to check with facebook.
Nope – no more grandchildren – but I do have new friends. How do I know I have new friends? Because Facebook confirmed that truth. I now have friends who I have not actually ever met. Well, we have to qualify that statement – I have not met them face to face, shook hands, drank a beer, reflected on a troubled day, and grieved a loss together. But they are friends – because I have the internet affirmation to prove it.
In a cyberspace sort-of-way we are becoming connected to others. Some of my new friends write very personal stuff on their facebook pages. Personal stuff that is usually shared in a dark corner of a tavern, after two or more drinks. In the past my friends would sit somberly, nervously picking the label off their beer bottle, gathering strength to tell some dark secret of their life.
My cyberspace friends take chances beyond two drinks in the tavern corner. There are a dozen games offered on social networking sites prompting revelation of personal quirks. The innocence of ‘Which Disney/Pixar Character are You” leads us to reveal our true nature – and these psychological profile tests will help shape our image of self – and thus lead us to more productive lives. Or so we hope.
Seriously folks, social networking has truly taken on a new meaning. My children are young adults and have bought the concept – my grandchildren are learning about ‘social networking’ in a manner very different than my experience dictates. We used to look into a person’s eyes, shake their hand, and exchange greetings. The willingness to make eye contact, the firmness of their handshake, and politeness of greetings told us a great deal about our potential ‘new friend.’
Relationships used to start with polite introductions, then shallow talk about the weather and the Kansas City Chiefs. After gaining confidence in another, we might venture into politics, and perhaps religion, but always feeling our way along in the relationship.
Advancing relationships take chances with sharing some emotions. Perhaps: “I feel down on cloudy days.” We pause to see the reaction, hoping for: “Yeah, I know what you mean. I get down too.” With that affirmation of understanding we might take more chances.
Relationships began with intellectual drivel, then advanced to emotional honesty, and true friends advanced on to spiritual camaraderie. The spiritual self, in this context, is merely the idea of sharing our deepest hopes and fears.
I do not know what the future holds. I fear for my grandchildren. Are my fears justified? Perhaps I am just scared of Facebook – of social networking that does not follow my traditional understandings.
Clearly there are great advantages to an internet society. We can communicate instantaneously with people in the middle east – wouldn’t it be nice if the people of the world could communicate without a Senate Confirmation Hearing? With Facebook, and other sites, we do not need government intervention. We have only to ask for friendship. We can confirm friendship, or not, with real time connectivity.
The downside rests with the nature of human deviance. Cyber Crime is on the rise. Local, State, and Federal police agencies have Cyber Crime Units. I have teen age grandchildren – children who live in a world of texting and cyber networking. They do not have the fear of danger that lurks around in my mind.
And here I sit, writing a post for worldly internet consumption. According to Google Analytics, The Fireside Post has traffic from all corners of the world. People are learning about America by reading and watching and hearing. I have made new ‘friends’ through this process. Occasionally someone will write something profound in our comments section. A few times I felt danger in their emotional words – prompted by something I wrote. In those few cases I have responded with personal emails. I now have friends in New York and San Francisco that I have never met in person. I value their friendship – we have shared as if we were sitting in the dark corner of a local tavern.
Maybe I am coming around to this new ideal of social networking.