Can online friendships ever be the same as real life ones?

June 4, 2011

I often see tweets saying ‘so and so has just unfollowed me’ and I’ll be really honest, I’m at a loss to understand them.

It’s never occurred to me to look up who has just unfollowed me or whatever; I figure that those who want to talk to me and engage with me follow me, and those that don’t… er… don’t.

Of course I get that online friends can become very important, particularly if you feel isolated, but unless you’ve actually met in real life, then I’m not sure online friends are the same as real life friends.

Until last year I used to accept facebook friend requests from people I’d talked to on twitter; but then I started to realise that it makes more sense to wait until you’ve actually met someone in person before accepting them.

Online friendships can become very intense, very quickly, of course (as can online flirtations!). But I’m not sure if you can consider anyone an actual friend until you’ve met them, or found out a bit more about them.

But am I being too picky? Are online friendships as important to you as real life ones?

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  • Liz Jarvis June 4, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Lovely CJ, you are very popular and you mustn’t worry about the people who don’t follow you one second longer. And I totally agree with you about the interaction thing. Keep your following list manageable and don’t worry about the rest xx

  • Crystal Jigsaw June 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Oh dear! I feel like a real sad nutter now! I don’t have a great deal of self esteem to start with but do you know what? After going to that site last night, I’ve realised I need to toughen up on Twitter. Online friendships to me are important. I enjoy the banter, the rapport and getting to know people. I agree that if you’ve never met it’s difficult to have a “proper” friendship but I have made some lovely friends. I think it could be just a difference of opinion as to how people view a “friend”. A friend to me is someone I have contact with on a friendly basis, whom I’m got to know and has got to know me, whom I get along with and whom is interested in me and vice versa.

    When I went to that site last night, believe me, it was THE first time I’d ever done that. I have always wondered why people do it and also think it’s silly when people tweet that so and so unfollowed them. But you see, for the past couple of weeks someone on Twitter seems to have been ignoring me (I’m not saying who) and I wanted to check whether they’d unfollowed me or whether I’d simply offended them in some way. This person is always on Twitter and was conversing with lots of people but wasn’t answering my tweets. Curiosity got the better of me and I found myself on the “who’s unfollowed me” website, being all melodramatic and particularly sad, only to get a shock when I saw how many people have recently unfollowed me who I do actually chat to. Some were from Brit Mums, some were authors, some were just a waste of space, but some were actually people I’ve been chatting to for a while now, and sensitive old me was a little hurt. Call me soft, call me whatever you like, but it did make me realise that I needed to sort it out. Of the 1500 or so people I follow, 591 don’t follow me and many of them don’t even know I exist.

    In my opinion, Twitter is about interaction and if people aren’t bothering then I see no point in following them. It works both ways of course and I do realise that some of the people on the list probably got fed up with me, too! I imagine the majority of the 1600 people who follow me only do it for a follow back. But the ones who don’t, yes, I would like to consider them as friends. Distant perhaps, but still friends.

    CJ xx

  • Sara June 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I have some incredible online friends and I don’t use the term friends easily. Yes I have online accquaintents but I can honestly say I have online friends who are extremely dear to me. Who have saw me through rough times and know me better than the ones I see in person. Locality doesn’t make a friendship Its who the people are.

    As for those who unfollow me. I don’t even check not that I know how to. Sometimes we follow people we think we may share an interest with only to find that yes why we both may like something the reality is we are worlds apart in other ways. That’s life and we just accept that.

    • Liz Jarvis June 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm

      I do think that checking to see has unfollowed you isn’t going to do wonders for your self esteem.

  • Livi June 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    I have to disagree. I have some amazingly supportive online friends who I know I will probably never get to meet; they live abroad or are too ill to meet up.
    I have met some of the friends I’ve made on twitter and through blogging and, to be honest, it hasn’t made our friendship seem any more “real” to me, it just seems that other people accept it more.
    Having said that I’m not one to stalk to unfollowers, following doesn’t equal friendship!

    • Liz Jarvis June 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm

      I think that’s right – following doesn’t equal friendship. I think it’s better to wait until you’ve built up some sort of rapport with someone before trying to talk to them as a friend.

      I agree that meeting people who you’ve already formed a bond with online is usually a positive thing; I suppose what I struggle with though is assuming that the people you talk to online that you haven’t met are actually friends.