Cyber Friends

Blogging has "Followers." I recently learned that Facebook has "Friends." And apparently the more "friends" you have the better, at least in terms of networking and platform building. As I've browsed through different Facebook pages, I've been amazed at the numbers of "friend" totals that some people have!

Maybe I'm playing word semantics, but I must ask the question anyway. Is Facebook distorting the meaning of the word "friend?" Would I consider someone from high school that I haven't seen or talked to in 20 years a "friend"? Could I truly call the big name authors and agents "friends" even though I only admire them from a distance? They might be on my Facebook list of "friends" but are they really friends?

What constitutes a friend in the truest sense of the word? We all value different qualities in our friends. but certainly we can all agree that a friendship must involve a genuine relationship. My pocket Webster defines friend as: close companion.

More specifically as writers, we need genuine friends who can encourage and challenge us in our writing journey and we can do the same for them.

Do Facebook friends fit that definition? Are they close companions or are they another "list" of people to help us in our quest for publication? For that matter, do any cyber friends live up to that definition?

I think I'm beginning to form some genuine relationships with cyber friends, but since I'm still fairly new to the cyber world, I'm not sure how it will all work out.

So, what's your take? Do you think our modern cyber world is distorting the meaning of the word "friend"? How would you define a true friend and can you find that kind of friendship in the cyber world?

I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts!


  1. Facebook just calls them friends for lack of a better term. Of course not all my "friends" are friends. I don't think anybody could really say that. They are people I know somehow - a way of connecting in cyberspace. A fun and random way of reconnecting with old acquaintances. :)

    What do I constitute a true friend? Somebody who you can talk to on a deeper level than just "hey, how are you?". Somebody who cares how you are doing and you care right back. Somebody who you enjoy spending time with. Somebody you can laugh and cry with! I think these are all things I think of when I think about my friends. I think it is possible to have a true friend in cyberspace.

  2. Hi Jody,

    I still need to share my stories. I'll try to do so today. Some of my closest friends are on my friend list and then there are those people I do see more as "contacts" or connections. I went into FB like moms often go into labor...with a preconceived idea of how I was going to do it. "No drugs" was instead "I'm only going to have people on my list who've really impacted my life in some way."...I should tell you I had an epidural all three times! So, basically I had to rethink about how I was defining these "friends" on FB, which is difficult for me b/c I'm one of those, once I let someone are in, type of people.

    Anyway...FB = labor (my lesson of the day)...completely kidding, but I've come to the point where I want God to use me no matter who I'm connecting with.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Wow! I just realized how often I used the word "think" in my post!!!

  4. I don't think they are distorting it.

    There are tons of different levels of "friend." You have a casual friend, a best friend, a close friend, a work friend, a church friend, a irritating friend... LOL I guess now we can add to the list a facebook friend.

    The whole premise in facebook is that instead of letting the world see your stuff, only your "friends" get to do that. It makes it a bit more intimate. And big authors have on occasion responded to a status update of mine or something, so it just echo's the reality that we are ALL human and we are all in need of friendship.

    So, I embrace it, and heck, I have over 200 friends! How about that!LOL

  5. It's quite possible they should change the term to "acquaintances" Especially now that I am trying to network my blog, I find I keep getting friend requests from people I don't even know. I usually don't accept them. I still have a bunch of real friends and family on there. I'm not so sure I want to lose that. I keep Twitter for obscure followers :D

  6. Friends on facebook and myspace aren't real. I don't post any personal pics because I plan on having people on there that I don't know.
    I have one close e-mailing friend and a best friend from grade school. Otherwise, I don't have too many close friends. I do consider my blogger friends as writing buddies. Which is great! You all provide support and relationship in ways nonwriters can't.

  7. Words are meaning-laden labels (or symbols). Different meanings are attached to them in different situations or at different times through history. So, words are always context-senstive.

    That being said, I don't know that it is so bad that "friends" is used to describe someone we don't know but whose face appears on our Facebook page. But, if facebooking (another new word in our society) becomes so popular that the special meaning of "friend" (close, personal connection and relationship) is lost, do we have another word to take its place?

  8. Great post, Jody. Most of my Facebook "friends" are more acquaintances or maybe just "old" friends since I haven't talked to them in years. I do think that the internet has given friendship a different definition.

  9. It depends on your expectations. Some people yearn for a deep connection and may be very disappointed when Facebook and other online networking tools don't give them that.

    I like meeting new people so I think of it as a big cocktail party. Some people I know well; others I'm getting to know through chit-chat.

    I agree with Jessica, though, that privacy is important. If a writer decides FB will be a networking tool, they might want to be cautious about the personal info and family info they put up. However, if the writer feels comfortable sharing their personal life, than they should do what feels right.

    Have a great day!

  10. For me, my FB "friends" fall into different categories: old pals from school, church family, writing buddies and current relationships. FB just lumps them all into one, which I suppose is easiest - why differentiate? And how?

    I do know some writers (agented or beyond) who have created separate profiles, so those interested in their work aren't shuffled in amongst those so intimate. And that's what I'd consider in the future - because I do put personal things (family photos and such) on my profile, which, down the line, I wouldn't want just anyone having access to.

  11. Katie: You and Jeannie seem to be great cyber friends, right? And you've never met? So, I THINK ;) you have found a true friend through cyberspace!

    Wendy: I like the word "contact." That seems a better way to describe FB connections. OK, so now I really need to hear your stories (especially if you're comparing the FB experience to labor!)

    Krista: You have a great point about different levels of friendships. Do you let people sign up for your FB account that you don't know? I've gotten a couple requests from people I've never met, but are friends of my new "friends." I'm not sure how to handle that yet! If I'm looking at FB as a way to network, then I should probably let them into my FB world, right?

    Marybeth: You bring up the same point I asked of Krista. If we want to network, should we accept everyone who asks to be our friend? I'm not sure at this point! Plus, it seems so "mean" to have to turn away someone wanting to be my "friend." I think I could say no easier to someone asking to be my acquaintance!

    Jessica: That's the struggle; I consider myself to have a limited number of "friends" in the truest sense of the word. But I do have quite a few connections and writing buddies through the internet. I guess it all boils down to how real of a relationship can you have with someone you've never met, right? We can put up a facade online; but real life friends see us for who we really are.

    Warren: Great point! Maybe we will have to eventually find a new word to describe our real life friendships vs. cyber friends. I see a trend among my real life friends of spending more and more time with online communities. It makes me wonder if some day real life friendships will diminish under the influence of cyber ones.

    Melissa: It will be interesting to see where this whole new trend leads, don't you think?

    Jill: I hadn't thought of gaurding privacy on FB. I do see it as another networking tool. I don't have the extra time to use it for just fun, personal reasons. I look at it as another aspect of the writing business. And while I want to be personal and friendly, I guess I also want to remain professional!

    Janna: That's an excellent idea to possibly consider having two separate FB accounts, one personal and one business. I like that! Thanks for sharing !

  12. Oh, facebook certainly does for me. I don't know hardly any of who have joined as friends, even if I do like their writing. It's definitely used as a networking site for me. But my daughters have accounts and they do just have real "Friends" that they know personally and go out to movies with, ride with, go to school with, etc. So, I guess it depends on how you use it.

    There are so many variations of friends in this world, that it is really hard to define one set from another in just a word or two, so sometimes acquaintances get lumped in as a friend, too. But that's okay, didn't Jesus want us to be friends to everyone, anyway. Some will be closer, and some distant, we just have to let be what will be and stay open to new friends!

  13. All I know is that I've made some true friends through the blogosphere (people I can converse, share, and smile with), and I've reconnected with old friends through Facebook. I certainly don't go "upping" my lists of friends just to further a goal.

  14. Most Facebook friends are really acquaintances with the potential of friendship. There's always a chance you'll meet at a writers conference or discover a similar interest.

    My blogging buddies and I have more interaction. Some of us even email each other or talk on the phone. Relationships take time to build.

    I'm grateful for both friends and acquaintances.

    Susan :)

  15. Jody: My son thinks that cyber friends are not 'real' in the sense you don't meet them face to face. But I have found some very real support, encouragement and strength from those of you i've been honored to call my friends, from blogging.
    I thank you for your friendship.
    In a general sense, being a friend is loving unconditionally, but being honest enough to say "that hurt," or "help me understand why you think that way."
    It is speaking the truth in love.
    It is being there when others have left.
    It is seeing the diamonds when others see only rocks.
    Believing in another's dream, and sacrificing to help them acheive it.

  16. Eileen: That's interesting that your daughters have a completely different use for FB! I think that we will have some people in our inner circle of support, then we'll have others in a different circle and then other even further out. You're right, we're to be friendly with everyone and always be open to new friendships! Yet not everyone will move to our inner circle.

    Lady Glamis: Have you met your cyber friends in person too? We always have the temptation to hide the "real" us in any friendship. Often we don't want our friends to see our "dirty laundry." So we put on facades to mask the crud. I think this would be an even greater temptation with cyber friends. We can hide so much more from them, only letting them see the things we want them to and hiding the rest.

    Susan: I think if we're facebooking for business reasons, then really most of our "friends" are really acquaintances. But I like the idea of them becoming potential friends! What a positive way to look at it! Thank you!

    Jeanette: I think I've been blessed by some great writing friendships through the cyber world too! (Including you!) I have truly been encouraged, gently reminded of priorities, and learned so much from other pilgrims on the path. So, in that sense we are blessed to have this wonderful way to spur one another on. And yet, sometimes I wonder how much we really know, how real and open we are when we can hide behind our computers? Food for thought!

  17. I really like what Susan said:) Because I have met some people I've talked with online and some become friends others stay as acquaintances.
    My best friends is the person who has been there with me through thick and thin. But as I go through life--I have made new kinds of friends but I'm not one to have a ton of people on my Facebook account to have the number high. THey are people I've had some sort of connection with.
    As a Christian--we are all connected and for that I like the contact.
    Thank you for your prayers! We may not know each other well, but I know you prayed for us and that means alot!

  18. Jody:
    I think at times I am MORE real here in bloggy land, because those i've met are so supportive, so I can be transparent without worries. Of course, being a pastor's wife, I come under scrutiny more often than i'd like, so having a non-judgemental group is refreshing to me!
    On the other hand...
    "It's too easy to be a jerk on the internet" is another quote from my son!

  19. Jody, when I receive a request from someone I dont know, I do one of two thigns. If I see we have a lot of writer friends in common, I'll accept. I love networking with other writer's on the journey, and sometimes these are even avid readers which is EVEN BETTER!!!

    If we have no one in common, I'll send a message back asking how they found me. If they seem legit and someone I don't mind being friends with, i'll add (becaues they might be a reader someday!) but if someone who's just friend collecting, I don't. I put a lot of personal stuff on my facebook (as with my blog) and so I am little selective.

    But how much personal stuff to have on the Internet... that's a whole OTHER topic!

  20. Hi there, Jody,

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving your sweet comment.

    I agree that it's really a stretch to call people you've never met in real life a "friend". As an adult with wisdom I have no problem with it, however it sets a potentially dangerous precedent with young children, doesn't it?

  21. Terri: There is that push, it appears, to have high numbers on Facebook to show your platform. It will be interesting to see if that really works to sell more books! I'm glad I could lift you up in prayer!

    Jeanette: My mother was a pastor's wife (and I was a PK), so I do understand the pressures and the scrutiny and having higher expectations placed on you! I'm glad that feel free to be real in the blogosphere! I hope we all can!

    Krista: That's a super idea to check to see what friends you have in common with someone before accepting them or to send a message to find out how they found you. Thanks for those tips!

    Julie: Thanks for swinging by! And yes, it makes me cringe to think of how this whole "friend" concept will affect children in the coming generation. Already so many people approach relationships so casually. Loyalty and perseverance are outdated character traits. How will this affect committments, even marriages? Oooh, deep thoughts!!

  22. I originally got into FB to connect with family and friends who aren't near. It has been great for that. Now I can see it could be used for networking, though it does change the meaning of the label "Friend". I'll be interested to know how helpful social networking sites are to selling our books!

  23. I think of Facebook "friends" like I do someone calling me "neighbor". Unless you live next door, I wouldn't call you my neighbor. But we both live on this blue world so in some sense we are all neighbors. And if calling people "friends" helps make it all a happier place to exist, I'm all for it.

  24. I like Joyce's description. I was trying to figure out how to word my thoughts and then I read her post. So, I would say, "ditto" :)

  25. Sherrinda: How's that new lap top!? It will be very interesting to see if FB will help us down the road or if it will eventually fall by the wayside! Hope you're getting some good writing done!

    Joyce: I like your perspective! We are all neighbors in one sense of the word, aren't we! Thanks for chiming in! Good points!

    Jaime: Sorry I always spell you name wrong! And I tried linking up with you on FB, but couldn't! But I did see you live in Madison, WI. I'm curious to know what church youth group you help with. My hubby used to be a youth pastor when we lived in Madison. I have a connection with Katie now b/c of Madison, and now I'm wondering if I have one with you too!

  26. I'm not that attracted to facebook even though a lot of my friends are on it. I appreciate them more in different forms.

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