You know & I know that being a Facebook “friend” with someone does not always mean that they are actually your real friend, but I want to ask you a real question…
What is a friend?
In a quick online poll, I just asked this question & here are some of the answers people gave:
- Someone that makes you laugh. They stand by you…even when you may be wrong.
- Helps pick you up in life
- Someone that knows your business and loves you anyway
- Would never say anything about you they would not say to you
- Person w/ your best interests at heart
- Knows your faults & loves you regardless
- Someone that would die for you
- Someone you feel secure enough to fight with
- Someone that will tell you “Yes, you do look fat in that outfit”
- Someone that will change your tire on the side of the road
- Someone that speaks truth to you and not just fluffy encouragement
- Someone that loves you as you are but not content to leave you that way
(You all gave a lot more insight…thanks!!!)
In so many ways, the things that you all described above can happen online. Truthfully, some of the folk that I went to high school and college with that were my best friends (in person) do the things you all listed above WAY LESS than some of my Facebook “friends” that I have never met in person. Online, you can offer encouragement, advice, insight, support, well wishes, regrets, apologies, critiques, and so much more.
Some people that I genuinely think of as my friends I have never met in person but engage online on a regular basis. In fact, it may be easier to find people to understand, appreciate, and “get you” online than it is in person because the pool is so much bigger.
The truth is…I think we are greatly OVERTHINKING what it means to build real friendships online!
Let me give you 4 thoughts on how you can use social media to build real friendships. I would love to hear your ideas/questions in the comments section. I will add more layers to these in the workshop and will come back here and do it later if I have time.
1. Consistency– show up regularly and often w/ comments across multiple platforms without being stalker-ish. 🙂
2. Encouragement – offering encouraging notes when it is clear “friends” may be down and even when they aren’t.
3. Financial support of causes – you may not always be able to support every cause of every friend, but doing it from time to time goes a very long way.
4. Disagreeing -disagree with a blog post, a comment, a tweet, etc. and let them know in a friendly way.
Now here are some ways to encourage your teens to build friendships (in addition to doing the above).
1. Encourage them to follow & friend all the kids @ their school or in their grade and teach them how to do the 4 things I say above.
2. Teach teens that what they do online really matters and is real – including public & private messages.
3. Encourage your youth leaders to do the 4 ideas I list above with the youth they serve.
4. Ask & invite your Facebook friends to show up @ real, in-person events. Even invite them privately via direct messages, etc. if you think you have built a good relationship online.