If you’d have told me thirty years ago that I’d have dear friends I’d never met, I would have questioned your sanity. However, that’s exactly my situation. Some of my best friends in the entire world are people I’ve never met face-to-face. Think about it. I’ve had five or ten year long relationships with people who have been been there for me through thick and thin, and I’ve never met them! I’ll bet you have some too.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Google+ have given us the opportunity to connect with like-minded people who happen to live 3000 miles away or even half way around the world. Social networking has changed the face of friendships, but is it for the better? Let’s see.
“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;” –Romans 12:10
Benefits of Social Networking Friends
1. You can seek out like-minded people even if they do not live anywhere near you.
2. You can have incredible friendships with people you’d never have met otherwise.
3. You can experience the entire world right from the safety and comfort of your own home without spending a dime on plane fare.
I think the benefits are fairly clear so I’m going to spend the rest of this article on the drawbacks.
Drawbacks of Social Networking Friends
The fact that we don’t have to look our friend in the eyes as we communicate to them has changed the face of friendship because it has emboldened us to speak our mind, but not always in grace. Not having to see the pain on a friend’s face means we are free to speak the truth in boldness, but not necessarily in love. It means we are less likely to think first before we post something that might be hurtful. In fact, we may be tempted to jump to conclusions about what they meant and turn it into something we only think is true.
2. Disposable friends
It’s much more difficult to end a friendship when you live or work near each other. It’s much easier to dispose of someone in your life when you believe them to be something akin to a hologram. Offense usually has a much faster fuse on the internet and we can find ourselves turning a small misunderstanding into a conflict the size of the Hatfield and McCoy feud.
3. Too accessible
In our microwave society, we now expect our cyber friends to respond to our posts and emails within seconds or at least minutes of our posting. After a few hours, we begin to wonder if they’re mad at us. If they haven’t answered us in a few days, we’re sure they’re ignoring us. We never jumped to those conclusions when leaving a phone message for a neighbor and she lives next door.
There is good and bad in all communication technology. It's important to remember that scripture tells us to speak in grace, even if we are not speaking face-to-face. How has social networking changed the face of your friendships?