GenXers, digital technology and the authenticity of blogging friendships

I am interrupting my vacation memories reporting to bring you some other thoughts percolating through my head. πŸ™‚

There are people in my life who consider internet friends not real.

Most ‘real’ people in my life consider all things social media ‘fake’. Essentially, they consider a person I ‘met’ through a blog or social media as ‘not a real friend’ and thereby ‘fake’.

As if meeting in physical life is a prerequisite to authentic friendship.

I am not one of those people.

Are you?

We’ve talked many times here in my blog and also in the comments of other blogs how the community aspect (in the form of comments, mostly) invites dialogue that helps us to expand our horizons. In some ways, this is especially true for those who consider themselves introverts (regardless whether others see them as such, or not).

I know one thing: I have embraced technology enthusiastically.

Partly, this is because since I was a little girl, I’ve always liked the neatness that is the typed word. I loved typing on typewriters, especially on the fancy Smith Coronas. πŸ™‚

When WordPerfect came out I was in heaven. THIS is how I want to write…insert things in places without having to get rid of (erase, rewrite) things I had already written, move paragraphs around relatively easily, and all that stuff.

Microsoft of course made things even simpler with Windows and today, kids are mandated to use Google Classroom (drive, and office apps) pretty much without choice, or thought, of doing otherwise.

I love texting. I love apps, and the ability to send pictures to people. I love its instant-ness.

Recently, while travelling, I had world clocks on my phone: Zurich, Frankfurt, Vancouver, Toronto, London, Edinburgh and a couple of places in the USA that are not part of my time zone as well. I have an international family who live in different parts of the world, plus many friends who live in different time zones. If I get a WhatsApp or something from someone I always check my clocks first to see what their time of day is at that moment. Should I bother responding now or are they on the way out the door to work, or to bed?

I love this part.

I love the part that connects me to family, and friends, in ways that I wasn’t able to when I was younger.

I also keep thinking back to adolescence: when I was a teenager I suffered social isolation more so than other teenagers due to the fact that I had residual side effects from a serious childhood illness (some hearing loss that fluctuated during the hormonal changes of adolescence).

Back in those days, teenagers yearned to have their own phones. Remember that? Remember the long cords on phones back in the 80s?

For me though, it was a hit and miss situation. Some days I had a hard time hearing, other times, I didn’t. If the phone rang for me on a day that wasn’t good, I couldn’t socialize.

It was annoying. Looking back, I would have loved to have access to texting then…

Teens in the 80s used to grab the phone and disappear into a closet or someplace private and have lengthy chats about nothing of importance. I was not one of those teens (and we had one phone, and five people, three of them teens, living in the same house).

Texting, group chat and all the rest of it makes it easier today to stay in touch with friends, to degrees (or also harder, depending on how you look at it). But it doesn’t come without challenges.

For us parents of teens today, we can remember a time when people were not plugged in all the time, or constantly bombarded by never-ending social media fluff. But we also remember a time when we would have liked the idea of connection whenever we felt like it. After I moved to Canada from Switzerland at age 11, I would have loved staying in touch more frequently with friends and family than was possible through snail mail. (Although I got some amazing snail mail letters…)

Having said that, because I grew up without it, I can still maintain a certain amount of perspective with today’s connectivity.

AND, I can embrace the technology today and what it gave me that I didn’t have before.

I have connections now that I didn’t when I craved them as a teen and young adult through the digital technological advances. I love that part. I also love the part that allows me to ignore a text or email when I’m not up for socializing. A ringing phone has a much more urgent implication in some ways than an app on a smartphone (for me, anyway) …

It’s impossible for me to explain how much of a difference this has made in my life.

Also, I have made friends I can claim as ‘true’ friends despite the fact I have not met them in real life. How many of you do I have an email or chat relationship with?

I love that part.

I hope you do, too.

Unfortunately those who don’t have that (or choose not to want that) sometimes make the assumption that my way is wrong or not good or fake.

The worst part? They will say those things while I’m sitting with them, listening to their conversation.

But ultimately, it doesn’t matter. I’m content with how I choose to socialize now, and I certainly don’t feel the need to explain it to anyone.

Blogging about it is different though πŸ˜›

That’s because a blog post of this nature invites dialogue and conversation in the form of comments. An exchange of ideas and perspectives. So go ahead, bring forth your opinions. Let’s hear what you think!

38 thoughts on “GenXers, digital technology and the authenticity of blogging friendships

  1. As an 80s baby/90s kid, I too appreciate the level of connection modern tech provides but still relish the days when everything wasn’t so urgent. I’ve had to “train” people to understand that I’m not quick to respond to texts because it’s not THAT serious to me, and that if it was urgent, I imagine a call would supersede whatever text they wanted to deliver to me. Plus I don’t like my concentration being sporadically broken in the vain of having a text convo or anything else that can wait. Call me selfish, but I also want to enjoy the moment, and I can’t do that well if I’m stuck to my phone or computer.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree Claudette. Online friends can be just as much our friend as an in-person one, in fact, sometimes, these relationships are closer because we divulge so much information and actually listen and try to empathize in ways that in-person friends/friendships just don’t always seem to do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes. In actual fact some people I know will say something as a way to verbally respond that I know is a fib or an outright lie, whereas someone who crafts a written answer seems to put a touch more thought into it. Often, those emails/texts/comments feel a bit more authentic to me.

      I struggle organizing all this stuff in my head sometimes, but the feedback has been great at casting perspectives. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I remember explaining to my kids a few weeks ago that, when I was their age, we had no internet, no YouTube and only 3 TV channels. The look of uncomprehending horror on their faces was hysterical — to me, at least.

    I’m one of those people who hates receiving phone calls. If someone sends me a text, or an email or leaves a comment, I can respond to it at whatever time suits me. A ringing phone demands that I stop whatever it is that I am doing and talk to the person at the other end right now, regardless of what else I might be doing — and I generally am doing something else.

    As for social media, there are inauthentic people online and authentic people online. This is also true of the physical world.

    Whether you know someone in real life or online — or both — is no indication of how good a friend they will turn out to be.

    I have friends online who I have never met. I have friends in the real world who still approach the internet with trepidation. While the nature of these friendships is often different, it would be impossible for me to say that one is better than the other.

    Then again, every friendship is different. Trying to impose some hierarchy of value on such a fundamental human activity strikes me as a fool’s errand.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well said. I quite dislike the judgemental tone in people who choose to avoid social media toward those of us who use it and like it.

      I hate the ringing phone with a passion. When I worked for an American simulator company I was forced to answer the phone by the second ring. Ask me (or my colleagues) how much work we got done on a typical day… πŸ˜‰ From that point forward all my phones at home were left on silent. πŸ˜‰ I still get increased heart-rate at the sound of a phone ringing. πŸ˜›


  4. Some of my very bestest friends live in my phone. If I had to rely on finding commonalities with the people in my geographical community, I would be so screwed; I’m not a farmer, I’m not a tea-party Republican, I’m not a rancher, I don’t like country music, I don’t ride horses, I’m not religious…. I could go on, but ultimately, the point is that I agree with you. I have found a community that lives in my phone.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Internet friends may not be able to help a person move but I feel fortunate to have their interest and sincere interest in my life and posts. I find most who comment are honestly connecting via my blog and help me to keep blogging. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I do not see them as the same kind of friends. I prefer the kind that I can call up on a whim and say “let’s go down to _________________ bar and grill and shoot some stick”. Online friends allow me to see a different side of life and make me realize that folks in Queensland, Australia, and in Osaka, Japan have the same exact problems I have here. The same anxieties, worries, and enjoyments. But those friends do not fill the same emotional need as a friend sitting across from me in a Waffle House woofing down a plate of something eggy and listen to you talk about how much you hate slow people on the highway.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Some I would consider surface friendships, but not fake, only because you don’t always necessarily get more than one small portion of a person in an online interaction. It is no different than seeing someone at work or in passing on a regular basis that you know well enough to say “Hi!” or ask how they are doing, but you wouldn’t help them move or even attend a get together they host.

    Others… some of the best and most genuine friends I have are people that I’ve met online. Some of those I’ve gotten the privilege to meet in person and others I haven’t. There have been a few times over the years where I’ve doubted this (joys of being way too often in my head and questioning everything) only to be utterly floored at how amazing those people are when they step forward without being asked to support me in some way, times when people I know IRL or even family didn’t offer that same support.

    So, yes. Online friendships can bey very real, but not all of them are deep. I’m beyond grateful for the ones that are.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good analogy using the work acquaintances. You know them on the surface, you have a work relationship with them, you get alone fine, you say hi when you see them out and about, but you don’t become friends in the traditional sense.

      I have several friends whom I haven’t met with whom I can have deep and personal conversations with. But a friend I’ve known IRL for, say, 30 years, would not want to be drawn into such a conversation…I have several of those, too.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I love connecting with new people via my blog, reading their blogs, etc. I embrace the diversity in background knowledge and point of view. I find it comforting to know there are people in the world that I know and like because of their words.
    I value my blogging friendships just as much as those of people I see regularly. To me they are just as powerful and important.
    I feel you, Claudette!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love the connection through social media. As I have mentioned on prior posts, because of social media we are more attuned. It is a great tool which can alert you to dangers of the world and also to good things but like Steve mentioned, I sometimes get sucked into the vortex. For example: I am taking an online class but I shouldn’t be perusing social media. On the other hand, if every time I moved on my own or went overseas on my own if I had the social media network it might have made things easier. The thing is that sometimes I notice social media and reality don’t mix. People stretch the truth and upon meeting them in person, you are disappointed. Social media can’t tell you if the person is someone to be counted on or to seek when you need a friend…only real life does that.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Well, I am thinking more specifically about when I corresponded over facebook with members teaching group for the UAE Teach Away and then I met some of them in person. Being an online person and a people person willing to extend yourself, I found are two different things! Needless to say a couple of them let me down, so I ended up making friends the old fashioned way.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’m not promoting one way over the other, I’m just agreeing with how it can be just as valuable in the nontraditional way, to form friendships online. I mean, to some extent, some of our ‘real life’ friendships are also online friendships, as we often text and email…

        And I understand what you mean. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I just had a dog incident! My stepson left his two big dogs with us and my husband and grandchild are on the other side helping unpack a trailer. The bigger dog attacked the too friendly pug. It is promising to be an interesting week! or two!

        Liked by 2 people

  10. I’ve been blogging for years and I have people/groups that I still keep in contact with now on Facebook – people I’ve only known online on Vox (the old, fun, Vox). I’ve never met any of them, but I consider them all friends. Just people you keep up with – and in many cases (most), I keep up with them more than I do old friends from school, etc. Still, I have a love/hate relationship with social media – I hate it when someone comes over for a visit and spends excessive time looking at their phones to check on FB status. This is maybe where I do differ – because I rarely go on FB. I don’t need to know what everyone is doing every minute of the day, and I don’t need to comment on what someone had for dinner, but if it’s late and I’m wondering how someone is, I can check in with them and see that they had the pork today, and I’ll know they’re still around.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. I’m with you. Some of my best friends are those I know only through social media and blogging. I suffer a bit from social anxiety, and technology lets me be a more social person. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 3 people

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