When people follow me on Twitter, I usually follow them back. The only time I don’t is when it looks like it is a bot. Those are pretty easy to recognize because it’s usually a very sexy looking woman with zero tweets.
This post may very well be another installment in Cheryl’s Weird Way of Looking at the World, but there are some things about social networking that perplex me. Certain phenomena that I have noticed as I observe the world.
It would probably be good to give my ideas of what things like Twitter and Facebook are to me. Facebook seems like a place to connect with people you actually know in person, friends and family, while Twitter feels like a place to connect with new people of similar temperament.
Twitter seems more like hanging out in a coffee shop as opposed to the big family picnic that is Facebook. I have never met most of the people I follow on Twitter. And for me that means I am more free to be myself. These are people who have no preconceived notions about who I am or what I should be doing.
This Twitter/Facebook thing makes me think of this Bible verse: “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household.” Mark 6:3-5 Jesus had been traveling and doing miracles and great things, but when he came to his hometown, he could do very few small miracles. The people of his town saw him as just that carpenter kid whose parents live down the road. They thought he was thinking pretty highly of himself and they became angry. He was doing something different than was expected of him.
People who think they know us do not like it when we act in ways they do not expect. When we have expectations of each other, life is an emotional roller coaster.
So in the Jesus analogy, Facebook is my hometown. The people there have definite ideas about me and I don’t impact them much because of it. Anything I say or do has to penetrate the wall of projected ideas and opinions…and that’s not always easy. So I find myself a little constrained on Facebook. That is not the case with Twitter or this blog.
When I am writing anywhere besides Facebook, I feel free to be myself. Judgmental family and friends put a damper on open communication. Not that I never judge, I clearly have opinions on where my family is coming from.
As I follow new people on Twitter, I get a lot of requests to also be friends on Facebook. Usually from people who are selling or promoting something. I get such an odd vibe from people who are constantly trying to drum up new contacts and increase their number of online friends. To me, it has an air of desperation about it. A definite Amway marketing feel. It’s off putting.
It doesn’t bother me in general that there are people on Twitter who are selling stuff. I can put up with that. There is a core group of people I follow who are absolutely precious to me. Their words and intentions help me stay positive. In a way, though I have never met most of them, they feel more like family than my flesh and bone relatives. These are kindred spirits, one of the great joys of life. A lot of these people are not selling anything and are just happy to connect with like minded others. They seem to be genuinely glad to share wisdom with others…free of charge.
A while ago I read a quote that said something to the effect that Twitter makes you love people you don’t even know and Facebook makes you hate your own family and friends. There is a curious truth to that. My experience is not that extreme, but I have seen the radiant beauty of total strangers on Twitter at the same time as witnessing arrogant and offensive behavior by Facebook friends I actually know in person.
This is partially why Facebook friend requests from strangers unnerve me a bit. It’s like inviting someone to join my obnoxious, opinionated, judgmental family.
The other reason is that the action of declaring a total stranger a friend, which in the grand scheme of things I support fully, redfines the word friend as I have understood it. I don’t like seeing this happen. I don’t like seeing online connections replace real human ones. Our worth as people is not determined by how many Facebook friends we have, or how many Twitter followers. The benefit is not in the numbers, it is in the quality of the connections that are made. While it seems possible that establishing a rapport with someone over Twitter could lead to a friendship that leads to a Facebook connection, asking too early is like being too eager on a first date.
A couple of years ago I met someone with whom I felt a very strong instant connection. Shortly after we met, after we’d seen each other a couple of times, I sent him a text message saying it seemed we had a lot in common and asking if he would like to be friends and hang out and talk sometimes. He responded saying that he appreciated the offer, but that he didn’t feel like he had room in his life for another friend at that time. It was one of the most honest, straightforward things anyone has ever said to me and I respected him for it. I understood right away where he was coming from. Relationships take time and energy if they are to be of high quality. That is just not possible with more than a few people at a time. It’s fine to have many acquaintances, but having 2 or 3 people who are close to be devoted to is about what most people can comfortably handle.
While I am fortunate to have people in my life who care that I care about, I have no close friends right now. Not the kind you see and talk to regularly. I’m connecting with a few people at work, but there is no way to know if those connections will last. I have tended to drift in and out of lives. I have short, intense relationships. The fact that I was married 18 years, notwithstanding. The actual relationship had deteriorated many years before I left.
The past couple of years has been the only time in my life I have been alone like this. It’s been the most eye opening thing I have ever experienced. Figuring out who I am without the influence of others. I better understand my strengths and weaknesses now and I do not need validation to be okay. I’m human, I still like validation, I just don’t need it to feel worthwhile anymore.
My hope is that the period of introspection will help improve the quality of all my connections going forward.
In the meanwhile I wish the multi-level marketing types would quit trying to get to me over Facebook. It’s not going to happen. There is a shallowness in the world of sales and marketing (and performers, actually) that does not interest me at all. A way of looking at people trying to find ways to use them for one’s own personal gain. For the rest of the time I have left in this body I wish to make real, deep connections with people who share the desire of making the world a better place by looking deeply at our fellow humans and seeing true beauty. I do not desire illusory connections in which there is no real interest in the other person. To me that seems like a living hell where one acquires relationships with no intention of maintaining them. Relationship clutter. It’s like people hoarders. I don’t want to exist at the back of someone’s metaphorical refrigerator, covered in mold or under a pile of old newspapers. Nobody does.
It feels like I will soon be able to manage a few friendships again. I finally know who I am. Or rather, I finally know who and what I am not, which makes it a lot easier to be genuine and removes the need for a façade.
Consider the freedom of not needing anyone for anything. It means you get to love people just because you do and for no other motive.
It’s time to celebrate real connection and stop settling for an illusion.