Virtual Friends

This is a new age. I know it astounds me every single day, with the access we have to so much information, with the connections to so many resources, with pretty much everything that has been expanded and re-imagined since I was a kid.

I think it started with music. When I was young it was all about cassette tapes, and eventually CD’s. But with the rise of digital music it changed the whole landscape. Now it’s playlists and music apps. We have pretty much unlimited music libraries at our fingertips, on our phones.

Social media was next. It was the first thing beyond email to really bring people together who weren’t in the same geographical area. The idea was to connect socially in ways we never had before, and it succeeded. It continues to succeed, and the formula is easy. As human beings we have the desire, the need, to connect with each other, to share our hopes, and dreams, and fears, and visits to Starbucks.

This was a way to reconnect with those we had lost touch with, a chance to maintain connections with those we saw on a semi-regular basis, an outlet to inform others of what was happening in our lives. But it morphed into something else, as things often do, especially when they’re related to technology. It became a virtual place to see and be seen, a “meeting place” where we could be with others without being with others.

It’s all very fascinating, really, the idea that we can have a community of people we are close friends with, of those who we are acquaintances with, and even of those we have never met in person. These virtual friends can sometimes become closer than people we talk to in real life (IRL), which makes sense because the screen is between us. So often we feel more comfortable typing to someone across a screen than saying things face to face. It gives us a closeness without the sense of vulnerability we would generally feel when looking someone in the eyes.

And, unlike email, social media can give a form of immediacy we, as human beings, crave. There can be a back and forth that simulates real life interaction, instead of the waiting game, but we can also leave a message to be picked up later, a note of encouragement, of empathy, of whatever we want to leave. It’s the perfect form of correspondence for those who are largely introverts, for those who like to expand their friendships, for those who are used to one-way relationships.

These virtual friends can be more important to us than those we see on a semi-regular basis, or they can be an extension of those we see IRL. Often these virtual friends are real life friends we don’t have the time to see on a regular basis, so social media is a way to interact and maintain. Often these virtual friends are there for us when we can’t, for whatever reason, connect in real life.

This is a new age. Believe me, every single day I am shocked by what we are capable of doing if we just Google it, if we just check out the numerous instructive youTube videos available at our fingertips. But, to me, the best part of the new age is how we can make connections with people we never would have met in the “old world.” It’s such a blessing to bring people into our lives who never would have even known we existed 20 years ago.

And I wonder what will be next.

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