Real Friends vs Social Media Friends

March 19, 2010 at 8:44 am 21 comments

As I was surfing Facebook the other day, I came across Christine Perkett’s (@missusP) Facebook status on my feed:

But what happens when your social media friends become your real friends?

Last week during my trip to NYC and New Jersey, I met Patrick Johnson, Deirdre Breakenridge and Valerie Simon, Brittany James and PRCog (no, I still don’t know his real name) for the first time.

Even though I had never met any of them before, their friendship was very real to me. They’ve helped me out without expecting anything in return; I’ve done favors for them in return anyways; And I’ve gotten to know most of them beyond their Bio (read: things that they don’t typically tweet about).

Meeting them in-person just reinforced those feelings of friendship. And it showed: there were no handshakes, just hugs. In the end, I found out that each one of them was even more wonderful in person than their online persona.

But what is the difference between a social media friend and an IRL friend, and how do you bridge that gap?

  • Connect with them on more than one social media platform: My SM-friends are connected with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, e-mail, Skype/ iChat and via phone. I tend to crack myself up by DM-ing someone on twitter and then switch to text-messaging halfway through the conversation (they don’t think it’s as funny as I do).
  • Be a digital body. Lend an ear, a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on. As I discovered when I asked the question, “Do You Use Social Media to Vent?” people turn to social media for emotional support or a release. Offer sympathy when someone tweets about losing their job, use your knowledge and experience to answer a student’s question about writing a cover letter and give a digital high-five when someone says they are drinking your favorite microbrew. Bottom line: engage.
  • Meet them Face-to-Face:  Even though technology enables us amazing social opportunities, there is still something lost between the lines of text on the screen. In order to get a real feel for someone as a person, you have to meet face-to-face. I’ve traveled to Chicago, New York and New Jersey to meet my SM-friends in-real-life. I’m working on finding a way to get myself down to Atlanta, GA. Allan Schoenberg, Director of Communication for CME Group (with whom I’ve met in-real-life several times), also understands the importance of turning connections made through social media into face-to-face friends. However, if you can’t afford the cost or time to travel the nation, find other ways. I like to use Skype’s video chat to “meet” people for the first time. With the same sentiment, Heather Whaling (@prtini) wrote a post on her blog, asking her SM-friends to bridge the gap and schedule a Skype session with her.

I dare say that my SM friends are more willing to answer my questions and help me than my non-SM friends. I think this is because social media attracts a niche market: people who want to SHARE. Do you consider your social media friends to be real friends?

(Special thank you to Christine Perkett for allowing me permission to use her Facebook status in this post- Thanks!)

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21 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Brittany James  |  March 19, 2010 at 9:19 am

    I totally agree. I feel like my SM friends are outweighing my real friends. On a weekly basis I find myself talking about one of my SM friends to my real friends and they’re always like “who?” Although we all chat through SM, it is important and A LOT of fun too to meet IRL as I learned at the Tweetup.

  • 2. Christina  |  March 19, 2010 at 10:30 am


    Just like in real life, I have SM acquaintances. The people that I know love Gossip Girl as much as I do or are die hard Mets fans. Do I tell them all my secrets? No. But would you tell all of your college/hs/colleagues secrets? Maybe, but I wouldn’t. The relationship is more surface level, for fun. Does that mean there isn’t an opportunity to dig deeper? No there definitely is but sometimes it is what it is.

    However there are people I’ve met solely on Twitter that I would bend over backwards for. Take Jay Keith for example. He’s become a mentor of mine and a true friend. We’ve been friends for a long time before I had the opportunity to meet him. The members of PRBC hadn’t met each other completely until just a few weeks ago and I’ll be attending one’s baby shower and another’s wedding. These friendships grew online but were reinforced by face-to-face contact but just because you haven’t met them IRL doesn’t mean it’s not a “real friend”

    Great post Mikinzie!

  • 3. Rob Smith  |  March 19, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Nice Post Mikinzie:

    You made a good point about the value of meeting in real life if its possible. I find myself communicating more with my SM peeps than my pre-facebook/twitter dawgs on occasion.

    There is nothing that can beat F2F interaction and that is why I have been attending as many tweet-ups/networking events meeting new people and current SM buds. I can tweet about sports, food, or whatever, but people can’t a real vibe of who you are as a person unless they meet F2F or in my case face to chest.

    Just this year I have become more active on twitter and I am amazed how friendly people are. I couldn’t picture five years ago people welcoming to their group of friends with open arms as if I was an old High School buddy.

  • 4. LIsa Atufunwa  |  March 19, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Great post, Mikinzie! My freshman year of college, I met one of my friends on Facebook. Almost five years later, she’s one of my closest friends. SM is a fun and great way to meet new people that have similar interests as you do, but Face-to-face interaction is still important.

  • 5. Carlee Mallard  |  March 19, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I agree that some social media friends can definitely become real friends. It depends some on where you live, your mobility, and how many other SM peeps live in the area though. For me, I’ve found that my social media turned real friends have become even more reliable and better friends than some of my “old friends”.

    I’ve also found that while I may be afraid to meet “strangers” in real life, it’s been a lot more fun, more laid-back, and interesting meeting social media friends because I already know that I have SOMETHING in common with them before we even meet. My recent travels to NYC meeting you, Patrick, Brittany, Elisabeth, Steph Auteri, Teresa, PRCog & others was well worth the trip had I not done anything else. I think that proves that SM friend definitely can be real friends if you want them to be.

    Interesting perspective, Mikinzie! Thanks!

  • 6. Steve Campbell  |  March 19, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    I’m just now realizing how helpful social media friends can be. If you take the time to actually meet the people whose content you find interesting you will find that they are generally nice and willing to help you with anything.

    I think those engaged in social interaction online have a better sense of community and they realize that this is a two way street. I would gladly help anybody I follow because they have been such a big help to me!

  • 7. Arik Hanson  |  March 19, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    I’ve discussed this many times with many people, but the odd thing for me is that many of the people I trust most are folks I’ve never met in real life. People like Valerie Simon, Heather Whaling, David Mullen, Lauren Fernandez and Rachel Kay. And many, many others.

    I’ve been fortunate to turn some online friends into “real life” friends, too. Allan Schoenberg, Matt Batt, Sonny Gill, Amy Mengel and David Spinks come to mind immediately. In my mind, I’m not sure it’s an either/or proposition. I guess I don’t really see a difference between my “real life” and “online” friends. For example, I probably talk with people like Heather Whaling more than I talk with many of my college friends. We happen to have similar life situations right now (starting new businesses) so we share a common passion/interest and that has allowed us to get to know each other better. I Skype and IM with Heather regularly. But, like I said, I have yet to meet her in person. But, I’m not sure that matters. Will it change anything when I meet her face-to-face? Maybe. But, I’m willing to bet it’s only going to further solidify an already rock-solid relationship.


  • 8. Christine Perkett  |  March 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Hi Mikinzie,

    I’m glad one of my rants could inspire someone 🙂 I understand the value of social media friends, and have met many wonderful people through this means. Like any way that we meet people, it’s an individual preference and style that determines the outcome of the relationship. I know people who have made lifelong friends this way – even spouses! My personal experience is a little different – I already have limited personal time for my spouse, children, family and existing friends, so my social media relationships tend to be more work-related and less personal. But they’re still very valuable in different ways and I’m grateful every day for the new things I get to learn from such a diverse community.

    And, social media reminds you what a small world it is – as you and I have learned from meeting each other through Twitter!

    Keep up the great work,

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  • 10. sradick  |  April 3, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Absolutely, I do. I don’t classify my friends as “social media friends” or “IRL friends. Rather, I refer to all of these people as “close friends” or just “friends” or “acquaintances” or maybe just as “followers” (on Twitter). Social media just gives us another way to interact with these people – some get late night phone calls discussing our most personal moments, some get tweets and FB status messages, some get invited to house parties, some get invited to our wedding – it’s just a another way of communicating with friends, this one just happens to be via computer.

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  • 14. Sasha Lame  |  October 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I love my SM friends so much, I think it might be time to meet them IRL. Sometimes I’d say that they just seem like more fun in comparison to my IRL friend. MEH.

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