Can we be really friends?

by Homer Nievera | shared on He Said, She Said |

I always ask myself this question whenever I invite or get invited to be a friend with someone I’d “virtually” meet online. I have more than 5,000 friends on Facebook, more than 1,000+ on Linkedin and a couple more in in other social networks. I’d say, of 5,000+ so called friends – social or professional – I have personally met only 300 of them. Is that a bad thing?

Technology has driven the way we communicate and associate with people. When what was supposed to create more time and space for us to be “free” has actually caused us to cram more things into our lives. Now, our lives are so cluttered that we don’t even have real time for real people.

Time is a valuable commodity. Sadly, it’s not renewable. We can’t even buy it. No matter how much money or connections we have, we simply can’t influence time. True to the old adage, time waits for no one. Thus, given just a few minutes to socialize, we meet, greet and keep our friends in online space. Then again, are they real friends?

We have used the online social and professional networks to connect and reconnect. We’ve found former classmates, officemates, friends, and maybe even lost loves. With photos and albums galore, we have found a way to share our lives to others. We have found virtual space to share our trials, triumphs, notes, journals, status, availability, ability, faith and hopes. These are the things that remind us of our needs as human beings.

I love coffee shops. They were made for personal conversations. They were created so we can just sit around, enjoy a cup of coffee and watch people and the world go by. Like the coffee that warms your lips, coffee shops make you feel the warmth of people around you. Friends that you make over a meal or a cup of coffee are seemingly for real. Yes, they can also break your heart. But they’re for real. What you see is what you get.

What about my online friends – are they for real, too? I’m talking about friends whom I have never personally met in my entire life. It’s either I invite them or they invite me. After which, I say a casual “hi” or greet them on their birthdays. I also comment on their notes, blogs, journals or status. I just want to somehow interact with them, even if it will only take me a few seconds or minutes of my time. As long as I have shared a bit of my time with them, I consider them as friends. Well, I am for real. I don’t really care if they aren’t.

Guess what? I have made some real friends online. I have even been invited to their birthdays, weddings and family gatherings. I’ve even godfathered some in their weddings and children’s Christenings.

Technology may have changed the way we interact with others today. What hasn’t changed is the need (read as: urge) to genuinely connect. Hopeful that every human being we meet online is the real deal, we’ll never stop connecting and reconnecting. We were wired to be social beings. That’s who we are.

So, I guess it won’t really matter if my online friend is genuine as long as I know I am. That is my nature. Maybe even human nature. That is what really matters. I have a conscience. I have a heart. Most of all, I have a soul.

Now that’s for real.

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