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.
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!)