Saturday, September 21, 2019

Saturday Soapbox - Social Media Friends

The term "Friends" used on social media platforms is such a misnomer.

In Real Life (IRL) a friend is someone who has been selected to be close to you. You've allowed them into your closest circle for a reason. Perhaps you share the same, or similar, views and/or values. Maybe you're from the same socio-economic and/or cultural and/or educational background.

Traditionally friends are 'vetted' in some way before you allow them close to you and your thoughts. Over life, friends may come and go, as things change. If you're lucky, you may keep some friends for your whole life.

Friends may come and go, easily or in more fraught circumstances. Friendships may fizzle, or there may be a spectacular falling out, or anything in between.

Social media is a whole different ball game. We collect friends like it's a contest. We have few 'criteria' they need to 'pass'. We receive a request and we accept.

Friends come to us from a variety of ways, sometimes with only the smallest of connections.

There is no category aside from 'friends'. We don;t have separate compartments for friends, acquaintances, work colleague, team mate, friend of a friend of a friend, random stranger, person I met at a bar. We're all just friends, and most people share all their social media posts with everyone who's a friend.

There's generally no filter on these friendships. We don't only see team mates when we play sport or train. We see our team mate at every moment, with everything they share. We see their whole life. IRL we may never have known their sexual, religious, political, race, gender, environmental, etc etc preferences because we only intersected at sport.

Have you ever had a team mate who was your best mate on the field, but you never saw them away from the game? I have. I knew not a thing about their life away from sport for a few seasons. On the field, I trusted them to have my back, to be ready for me/my pass, to help me out, make me look competent. We cheered each other, slapped each other's back, encouraged each other when energy waned in a game. We'd celebrate with arms around each other, huge grins, and goofy silliness. It wasn't until someone commented about my over-familiarity when they thought I was straight, that I realised she was gay. I never crossed into that part of her life. My sexuality, and hers, were not important on the sporting field. We were team mates and our bond on the court didn't cross into any other parts of life. But once I knew, did I treat her differently? Did she treat me differently? I wish I could say that it had no impact, but it did. We were much more guarded with each other. BUT ... why did it change anything?

When you see all of someone's life, there is a high degree of 'intimacy'. And because everyone is different, there may not be a lot of things from one person's life that aligns perfectly with your life.

I wonder if we're ready to see ALL of everyone?

Are we tolerant enough to allow our 'friends' to hold different view to what we hold? On the important issues as well as the trivial?

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