In a recent edition of Commentz, public relations and new media consultant Sarah Evans said:
We (husband and I) attended a wedding of a college friend this weekend. We attended with many people we hadn’t “seen” in years. However, it didn’t feel strange seeing and interacting with these people. Why? I am “friends” with them on Facebook and although we have not seen each other we all felt connected. In fact, many of us began interactions with, “I saw on Facebook you’re…” I remember learning in an interpersonal communications course that the number one reason long distance relationships don’t work is because people lose a common language (i.e. inside jokes, day-to-day happenings, etc). We had a common language despite not seeing one another. It also showed that we each make a concerted effort to know what the others are up to.
I love this. Many of us have probably had something like this happen and it shows firsthand how Facebook and social media can keep us connected.
Some people will say these are not “real” interactions everyone is having across social networking sites and that they’d rather spend real, face-to-face time with people. Who wouldn’t like to spend more time with friends? But, regularly scheduled face-to-face time isn’t always an option and it’s not always possible to pick up the phone and catch up with every person on a regular basis.
Facebook may not be the same as spending real time with someone you want to keep in touch with, but it sure beats the alternative of having no idea what’s happening in their life. And it can be a great way to reconnect with people you probably thought you’d never be able to get in touch with again.
I see keeping up with someone via Facebook and other social utilities as being similar to attending a meeting or event via webinar; there are a lot of reasons you’d like to be there in person but since you can’t, the webinar gives you a great way to get the content and feel connected to the event. Next time you run into someone (either offline or virtually) who also attended the conference, you’re both on the same page and can begin sharing bigger ideas. It can work the same way with social media and friendships—we just have to make sure we log-off occasionally. Utilities like Facebook can be amazing but they are at their best when used to enhance our offline relationships, not completely replace them.