Next week will mark my third anniversary on Twitter. Since June 14, 2008 I have connected with some pretty amazing people. Out of the 500 or so people I follow I can divide them into several categories. The first group of 100 or so are people (mostly educators), companies, and news agencies that I learn from, but don’t have much interaction with. I’m not saying this is a bad thing. It is just the way it is. The next group are people I interact with on Twitter only. They are great people, but we just haven’t made a personal connection yet. There is another group of about 150 people that I know from Twitter that I have also friended on Facebook. These are the people that I am comfortable enough with to get a little closer to. Even if we don’t interact a lot I feel like I can trust them enough to share my personal life with them. Out of this group there is a smaller subgroup that are my friends.
I don’t mean they are just people that I happen to know online, they are my friends in the traditional sense of the word. Our communication typically extends well beyond the conversations that take place on the public timeline. Many times we are chatting on Facebook, Skype or Google or we might even be having a conversation on the phone. These are the people I stay up late at night with planning projects. These are the people (along with my family of course!) who calmed my nerves when I was headed to the doctor for some testing a while back. These are the friends who I go to for support when I am having a bad day. These are the people who supported me when we lost a beloved family pet. They are the first people I share my successes and failures with. They are my friends in every sense of the word.
The other night on Facebook I posted how there are still many in my personal learning network (referring to Twitter) who don’t consider people in their PLN to be their friends. What finally dawned on me is that all of us Twitter differently. Many people use Twitter to simply share information. They have no interest in making a personal connection to anyone. They don’t care about getting anything from their PLN beyond information that is relevant to their career. I don’t think these people are getting everything they can out of Twitter, but that is OK.
This might be good enough for some people, but not for me. Twitter is about making personal connections. I think there are still quite a few people who don’t believe meaningful conversations and real friendships can exist in a virtual world. I can say without hesitation that they most definitely can. These friendships don’t just happen. They take an investment of time and the belief that online friends are just as important as the f2f friends we see everyday. The only thing virtual about these friendships is the space in which they exist. The connections are definitely real. People who make a distinction with real life and f2f friendships just don’t get it.
There are some people who say the time we spend online talking to people is a waste of time. I could not disagree more. I have a circle of friends that three years ago I never imagined would ever exist. This is a fairly small group that I would do just about anything for. These are the people I wish I could teach with and hang out with everyday. I guess in a way I do get to do that—-just virtually.