Over at the Emergent Village Weblog, which is a Christian website, Don Heatly wrote an introspective, but very insightful post about the conflicting nature of online social networking:
Although I actively participate in a network of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, I question whether we are truly creating new communities or merely using one another as commodities. Are the friends and followers I collect truly friends? Or are they just potential customers of my ego, possible readers, or promising hosts for whatever viral meme I want to inject into them? While I may write clever posts about the evils of consumerism, am I really just seeking to create consumers of me? In fact, is this article yet one more example of my own shameless self-promotion? And was that last question just the old marketing trick of admitting one’s minor flaws in order to seem more credible?
Here’s the thing. If you find yourself needing to question the authenticity and realness of a relationship, then that relationship is not authentic nor real. There’s no way around it. If a relationship is real, you don’t have to ask if it’s real. There’s no need to measure it. Those kinds of questions simply don’t come up. This is not the medium’s fault, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc. If a relationship is authentic, then no matter what communication tool you use, be it Twitter, a chat client, or a phone, there will be genuine exchanges within those mediums. I’m neither saying that relationships can’t happen after online interaction, but no matter how much Zuckerberg tries to model social interactions, the relationship has to be something more than just Farmville gifts and comments on status updates to be a genuine thing.