“Real” or “Online” Friends – There’s nothing like the real thing

I liked this Toyota commercial partly because of the truth that is expressed in it, and partly because of my reluctance towards some of the social media world.  This is something I have been speaking about for a while.  This young girl is sitting at her computer alone with her online friends and is commenting on how older people are “becoming more and more anti-social.” She talked her parents into joining Facebook but in spite of her efforts they only have 19 friends while she has 687 to which she adds, “This is living.”  Her mom and dad spent their day on a real mountain biking trip with live real friends while she spends her day in front of a computer. What a great point!

Thanks to Facebook and other Social Media sites people who we barely know or remember from the past are “friends” along with others that we really do know. William Deresiewicz in an essay on the Chronicles of Higher Education called “Faux Friends” said, “we live at a time when friendship has become both all and nothing at all.”

Real friendship is much different than online friendship

Real friendship, like what we experience and see in the Bible has personal commitment, sacrificial love and even periods of emotional intensity. They take effort and a willingness to walk together in both good times as well as challenging times. It involves feedback that gives us self perspective as we know and are know as we really are.  But online Friends can be like looking at a set of professional baseball cards and thinking they are your friends. Why, because online friends and real friends are all together on your Facebook site. They have similar characteristics of friendship but are not really the real thing!

Face to face friendship gives you perspective of yourself because you know and are known by others in a real way, but online you become whoever you want to be, regardless of whether it is real or not. The other side is that you can share your outrageous thoughts and perspectives with no real feedback other than a “like” reply, or short comment.”

When you post things about yourself it is really impersonal while giving the illusion that it is personal. Personal profile means you put out data about you that tells people little or nothing about your true character which is an important dimension to friendship. We really only know someone as we hear their stories and interact with then about ours. Real friendship involves a mutual sharing of stories from each other’s lives while there is probing and asking questions of each other.

We must have real friendships not just online “friends”

As Christians, we use social media sites but we can’t afford to let ourselves drift into having online friends but not many onsite, face to face friends. Just like God said to creation in the Garden of Eden, It is not good for man to be alone” we can be just as alone sitting in front of our computer screen with our 600 Facebook friends. We can’t allow Social Media Friends in which we relate, with an often made up image, to cheapen real relational connections. The House of God needs to demonstrate the relationships that Jesus has with us when He calls us friends. Open, honest, real, and ongoing, in which we help each other grow in their experience of Jesus Christ and His Family. Let’s not be satisfied with lazily sitting behind the protection of a screen, keeping our distance, so we can have an illusion of friendship.

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