Are Facebook friends real friends?

It's a tale as old time. You make an acquaintance at a party, work, a coffee shop or the gym and you like them. At the end of your encounter you promise to "friend" each other on Facebook.

One or the other of you "does the deed" and presto change-o you are friends. Then you promptly never see each other in person again.

I have met people with whom I've connected under banal and sometimes unusual circumstances. Sometimes the encounters were brief but meaningful.

I have one friend on Facebook who I only knew for a couple of years before she moved away. We are virtually connected through our "mom fails". She is often the first to hit "like" after I post one of my screw ups and she is honest and funny about the joys and difficulties of having four kids. God bless her.

Facebook friends can be broken down into categories:

  • friends you see (These people are currently in your life and you see them on a regular basis.)
  • friends you never see (These people are folks who you love dearly but never see because in between promises life happens and people are busy.)
  • friends you use to see (These people are former classmates, colleagues, or ex-lovers you are stalking.)
  • friends you have never met (These people made a friend request that you accepted because you have multiple people in common even though you wouldn't be able to pick out the requestee in a line-up.)
  • friends you'd rather not see (These are people who you are afraid to unfriend because you are convinced they'll figure it out and try to kill you or their life is the ultimate in schadenfreude and you can't look away.)

Some of the people I follow the most, "like" the most and have great fondness for are the ones I have only met once.

So are we actually friends? I don't know. Recently I took a trip to a city where one of these people lives but I was too shy to message them and ask them to coffee.

Dictionary.com  includes virtual friends in their definition of the word friend: (see #6)

noun
1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile:
Who goes there? Friend or foe?
4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.
5.(initial capital letter) a member of the Religious Society of Friends; a Quaker.
6.a person associated with another as a contact on a social-media website: We've never met, but we're Facebook friends.

People often trivialize the number of friends people have on Facebook. Often the more friends a person has the more trivial they appear.Why are people so criticial? Are they the "friend police"?

Are these critics just jealous that Jane Who-si-whats-it has more friends than them? One person's surface friendship can be another person's deep side of the pool.

After reading the status update of the Facebook friend I was too shy to ask to coffee I realized her posts lift my spirits and often make me laugh and think. Her posts keep me engaged and informed. She makes me feel good. People who make me feel good are much needed nowadays.

It's up to me to push my virtual relationships into the real world. Next time I'm in another city maybe I will. Until then I'll enjoy these friendships online. They are real and they matter.

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