On the post, I will not friend you on Facebook writer Lisa Hendey gives here criteria for friending on the infamous social network. I don’t disagree. But her question at the close may be the most important part of her article. Lisa notes, “one last question: Is “true friendship” possible on social networks? I say yes…”
I say yes too and consider that real friendship on social networking, is both work and grace “like” another other kind of friendship (“like” – did you see what I did there? I bet you did).
Over the more than 10 years I’ve been active online as a blog keeper (too embarrassing to mention how many blogs) and then later on various social networks (having resisted FB for a long time) I can say I have honestly been blessed with people I consider actual friends whom I would not have known apart from the Internet.
Two I have met in person, in our home though they live far away and one of those two I am praying for today as they are under the knife due to what is a very frightening cancer (is there any other kind?). When she went offline for a year or so we (my wife and I and she) kept writing by e-mail. When she returned to blogging it was just an another way of communicating.
One person I met online I continued to correspond with when they had to leave blogging because of a jail term. We kept writing because we had become friends. During that time we wrote old-fashioned analog letters over several years. They came into the Church during that time, though they have since left. I would welcome them in my home in an instant if we didn’t live nearly the full distance of a continent apart.
Not a few do I keep up a prayer friendship with also, praying novenas or urgent prayers and feeling those intentions as keenly as I would anyone I know in “real-time.”
Some were with me online during the conversion year as I moved out from under the cover of anonymous blogging. One of those who was such an encouragement to me as I entered has since left the Church and we have since drifted though they own a painting of mine and I would be, as I they would be, completely comfortable meeting in person. Another has been a constant blessing in his example as a re-vert and supported my family from time to time, an action that has always humbled me. I would mention his name and blog but believe his humility would have me refrain. He is among the list of folks I hope it is somehow possible to meet in person this side of eternity but, if not…
One dear artist soul with whom I share a love of writing and reading poetry surprised me by being the first to find my new (well, my then new) blog and was the first to comment. She’s among the most faithful “followers” but if that all stopped tomorrow because either of us went dark in the online world I think we would continue to share be e-mail or snail-mail because, as with others I’ve mentioned above, what began on and because of the Internet has moved beyond it.
Some folks surprise us. We “follow” them but then some deeper connection happens and it is very much as though we are, and perhaps we really are friends. Our lives are different but the common ground is our faith. I feel for these folks a kind of brother-in-Christ love and when they mourn (as one just recently has) I morn too. I don’t think that is possible unless real friendship has happened. Letting people be who they are and not burdening them with our expectation of them or failing to respect boundaries online is just like offline in that it must, simply must be observed for to good of the other and self.
In the summer I made major changes to who I am “friends” with. Sadly (?) a lot of Catholics got the slice because I am not interested in endless self-promotion (blog, book, other) with no conversation, endless American politics and the general politicization (read polarization) of every issue under the sun and those endless game related things…those were some of my criteria. Accordingly
Other changes I work at in terms of being a real person, a friend online is — though this may move me further into the ranks of lesser-knowns online — is to ‘not’ ‘have’ to respond to every little or even every big thing and to respond in my private journal first and take time in responding, sometimes, as I say, not responding at all or doing so but in a moderated (read heck of a lot shorter and kinder) form.
And, in some cases just letting go of others has made those friendships that I do have on-line, real. Don’t think I need add much to that.
So, would I welcome that person into my home? I mean really, would I? Would I enjoy having coffee or tea with them or a walk in the park? If not is it worth examining that “friendship?” What say, still wanna be friends?