Are online friends impairing real friendships?
Whether it is my phonebook or Facebook, I don’t keep contact info of people who don’t make an effort to keep in touch. I promptly delete profiles & numbers of people who add me as friend & then go missing. Months pass & not even a “Hi how are you?” If he doesn’t have the time to message or call/scrap/comment/post a line on the wall, why have him at all in my list?
The ‘friend list’ on FB/Orkut can easily turn into a mere contact list of social connections. Many so-called friends only have profiles, not faces. They share with us videos of cats chasing dogs or dogs chasing cows. (Don’t get me wrong; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, it spices things up.) But I would also want us to go a step further than that. I would want us to share our lives, feelings, achievements, emotions, secrets, hopes & fears.
I’ve no desire to create any world record in having X number of online friends; particularly, if there is 0 level of actual connection with them. I would rather have just 5 people on my list & consciously try to be a part of their lives in more ways than one. Social networks reanimate a past relationship or help push a new one forward. But they cannot be the entire relationship. Because all said & done, things can get mechanical after a point. For me, FB/Orkut is a way to get closer to the people I really like & who I miss not having around me physically. The occasional phone calls, surprise visits, & impromptu online text chats, all these add spice to the otherwise stale online exchanges. These keep the relationship real & the feelings intense & mutual.
Same holds true for phone numbers. The 30-35 numbers I’ve on my cell phone are mostly of the people who call me or I call them, at least once in a fortnight. Even if we don’t always call, we may meet on google chat occasionally or write a mail sometimes or send an interesting forward or a funny sms. We inform each other if we changed jobs/delivered a baby/went on a holiday/not well/going through bad phase in our careers/life or whatever. But we touch base. THAT is the most important thing for me in a friendship – whether online or real.
I believe if 2 people are separated by space & time, cyber space is a great way to connect with each other. It spurs you to reestablish your contacts & work towards meeting each other or at least planning a future, possible, actual, face to face, interaction. For instance, I feel very much ‘close’ to a few of my school friends who are in different parts of the country or the world. That’s because we put in the effort & interest required to keep the spark alive.
What’s the fun in having 536 friends in my friends list? Or 200 numbers on my mobile phonebook? I can’t do things half way. If it lacks zeal & intensity, it isn’t for me. I would rather have just 10 people whom I am constantly in touch with than 100 people who I’ve added as friends but then never looked back. What’s the point in adding someone as a friend & not communicating with them? After all, it’s not like we are living on different planets. Everyone is just a phone call away. Make the effort! And keep it real!