Monday, July 6, 2009

I wear my friendships online....

Let me start with a bit of backstory. I have always been quite shy - but friendly. I try to get to know people of all types, but it takes me a while to work up the gumption to do so. The bashfulness combines with homebody instincts to keep me from many parties and nights out on the town. In high school, I'd strike up conversations with those seated around me - sometimes, if they seemed OK. I went to college with the aim to be more extroverted - and did make many friends I may not have otherwise - but still played the homebody a bit.

And so it's pretty much continued.

Now, I follow 424 on Twitter. I have 207 friends on Facebook. I'm connected to bunches on Friendfeed, LinkedIn, through blog networks, etc. There are people I consider friends, who I've never met in person. I exchange ideas, reactions, commiserations with many of these new connections.

The other day, I commented on someone's Facebook status - trying to give a bit of support to someone having a rough time, and the thought struck me. "I wear my friendships online." I can get closer to people faster without the shyness barrier that can emerge in person.

Not to say I don't have friends in person (or IRL) - they're just usually pretty hard won and so not as prolific.

So I started this post, to work out the thought. Because of bad habits around leaving tabs open forever, that was a week ago. Oh, well. Since I started, Ramsey Mohsen posted on "ambient intimacy", hitting close to what I'd been waiting to write...
The term ambient intimacy is more than just a definition- it’s a construct that helps make sense of why the usage of social media appeals to the masses. [...]

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible.

@leisa summarizes it well; It helps us get to know people who would otherwise be just acquaintances. It makes us feel closer to people we care for but in whose lives we’re not able to participate as closely as we’d like.
Social media helps me get closer to more people. Some are those same people I tried to connect with in high school - easier to connect when social cliques are more in the past and instead we're just chics in their (gulp) mid-30s with a common element in where we came from. I like what this can do. It's probably a key reason why I'm still active in these spaces.

And I hope to run into some of these new friends IRL someday!

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