Facebook & Friendship

A lot of people have been sending me a recent Wall Street Journal article about how Facebook is ruining friendships. One even cautioned after he sent it: "not that there's anything wrong with our friendship." This prompted me to think further about this. 
I'm generally a very black and white type of person, and just accepted
that people either got Facebook or they didn't, and if they fell into
the latter, they either weren't interested in anything to do with
technology, or were part of the more vocal "it's the end of the world"
group. 

If people fell in the latter category, I just assumed
that a couple of decades ago, they would've said the same thing about
tape cassettes (vs. LPs) and answering machines.  They are part of the
"change is scary" crowd and when it involves computers, it's even
scarier.  Can't do much about those folks so I never try.  But, for
those more in the "grey area" here is a bit of my experience with
Facebook and friendship.

To be honest, I did not join Facebook to make friends. 
I joined Facebook solely for business reasons, and for the most part
I'm only on there a couple of times a day updating/monitoring our Downtown Women's Club Facebook page. While on there, I may click on the notifications alert button and
respond to anything that requires responding.  I leave most random
trolling for late night "work breaks."  My updates during the day are
feeds from this blog and posts from twitter, most of which are Downtown
Women's Club-related. 

Why didn't I view Facebook as a place to make friends? Because most of my closest friends IRL (in real life) are not even on
Facebook.  Or if they are, we rarely interact there.  This is why I was
surprised to find that I have developed a couple of very close new
friendships out of Facebook. And, I'm not talking "Facebook
friendships," I'm talking real, actual, "these people know much more
about my life than anything I would post on Facebook" type of friends.

Most of these are with people I knew from other walks of life, and
while they may have had nothing to do with my work, now that I think of
it, they all have helped me in some way with business.  A couple of
these new "friendships" are also the result of me getting closer to
people I met through business, and who have now moved from my
"business" friend list to "friends and family."

Would I have
gotten close to these folks without Facebook? Probably not.  Did I
sacrifice other friendships to do so?  Not at all. Is my world better
for knowing them? Absolutely.

How to build friendships on Facebook.

I agree that Facebook is not for everyone, and that the people I've
developed real friendships with all have very similar qualities:

1.  They like to write. 
The WSJ article points out that people can't express themselves well
via the written word and that's why friendships can be ruined.  That
may be the case for some people.  But, there's another group of us who
express ourselves much better in writing than we do in person.  This
may be why certain friendships develop on Facebook and others whither
and die.

2.  They embrace technology and social media. 
You will never make friends on Facebook if you do it half-heartedly. 
That's like going to a dance and opting to be a wallflower.  Or joining
a book club even though you hate to read.  Facebook is about engaging
with others.  If that's not your thing, than there's really no need to
be on Facebook. 

3.  They are interesting people who do interesting things. 
The WSJ article complained about people who posted boring details about
what they were doing every single minute of the day.  Well, sure there
are people who do that (and after a while I start hiding their status
updates), and no they are not people I've developed close friendships
with.  But, my close friends?  Yes, I want to know that S is sitting in
her hammock and I want to know what she's reading.  I want to see M's
travel pics.  I want to hear what music G is listening to.  And I want
to know what new gadget J just got because I might want one; or if D
came up with another great cost-saving idea so I could afford J's
gadget.  Because these are all things we'd talk about if we could ever
put ourselves geographically in the same room to have coffee or a
cocktail.

4. They all have terrific senses of humor.  My friends are funny and being able to check in for a laugh has never been easier. 

I
agree that Facebook is not for everyone, but for some of us it does
make our world a much better place. I also really liked the end of the
WSJ article, which might be helpful in using Facebook to make friends.

... To improve our
interactions, we need to change our conduct, not just cover it up.
First, watch your own behavior, asking yourself before you post
anything: "Is this something I'd want someone to tell me?" "Run it by
that focus group of one," says Johns Hopkins's Dr. Wallace.

And positively reward others, responding only when they write
something interesting, ignoring them when they are boring or obnoxious.
(Commenting negatively will only start a very public war.)

If all that fails, you can always start a new group: "Get Facebook to Create an Eye-Roll Button Now!"

Click here to read the full WSJ article.

Diane K. Danielson is the ceo of the Downtown Women's Club and the author of the new ebook, The Downtown Women's Club Beginner's Guide to Facebook

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