The complicated nature of online friendships

The year 2012 is still pretty young, but already it’s been hard on a lot of people I care about. One friend has lost a parent, another is coming close to the same fate. A friend has been diagnosed with a disease, many friends are without money. Some friends are miserable in their jobs and are wanting nothing else apart from change. Other friends would give anything to have any job at all.

I know all of these things, but for the most part, I’ve never met any of these people in “real life.” In fact, in many cases I have no idea what their voices sound like. I don’t know what their facial expressions are like as they listen to someone else talking. I don’t know how their intonations work.

And most of all, I don’t really know what I can do to help.

Still haunted

It’s been just about 6 months since I found out that Bruce Serven had killed himself and had taken his young son with him. I still think about that almost every day, but then, that’s kind of weird, right? Because I never heard Bruce’s voice. I never met him in real life. I have no idea what he looked like beyond the pose he held for all of his online avatars. I talked to Bruce in some way almost every day I was online for a good year, but I had no idea he was unemployed. I had no idea that he had so much going on in his life. I never dug deeper. I never asked how he was doing, to the best of my knowledge.

So now, I am more careful to keep track of people I talk to online. If someone goes quiet I check to make sure they’re okay – sometimes online silence can be like a frown or a pout in real life, right? If someone is having a hard time and they’re talking about it online, I try to make sure I at least send them a note so they know they’re not just talking to the air. Sometimes that can be enough. Sometimes.

The catch

Of course, what I have discovered is that in many cases, if someone tells you about something that is really bothering them, you, as an online friend, are left utterly helpless. You don’t REALLY know this person beyond your online interactions. It’s not your place to yell at a family member for them because you may not even know who their family members are. You’ve never been to their home. You’ve never been to where they work. If something bad does happen to an online friend, in many cases you will not be on the list of people the family will call. You’ll find out via a newspaper article like I did when Bruce died.

And you can’t really ask for anything more than that. Even if you talk to a person at length online day after day, you’re not that kind of friend.

Or are you?

All of this came to light because one of my friends going through a hard time had posted something about it to Facebook and not very many people indicated that they saw it. If you scrape away people who just don’t know how to react in those situations, the reality is that most people just simply didn’t see it. Between the fast moving Twitter stream and Facebook’s Edgerank, the chances of you seeing something an online friend posts are pretty minimal. These are the kinds of newsbits that humans have always passed along in phone conversations or meetings for coffee. That was the way we made sure we knew what was going on. That was how we knew how to respond and what to do.

In the online world, there’s no shortcut to being “real” friends. Paradoxically, the next step of friendship is taking it offline somehow, and eventually, hopefully, meeting face-to-face.

False intimacy

After news of Trey Pennington’s death spread, Jay Baer wrote a post called Social Media, Pretend Friends, and the Lie of  False Intimacy. It’s an amazing post that still gets comments 7 months later. Jay had considered Trey a friend but had not known that Trey’s life was in such turmoil. They had met in real life, so it seemed like they were even more “friends.” At the time, I disagreed with Jay’s assessment of the online world a bit. Even in the real world, one seldom knows 100% what is going on with someone. A family member of mine seemed to die suddenly but we found out they had been dying of cancer for at least a year. There was nothing online about that.

But after Bruce died, my illusions about online friendship melted away pretty quickly. I have tried ever since then to build more solid connections with people  I care about. The transition, however, is a rough one, because as you get closer to people online, you learn more and more, and you discover there is less and less you can do because of the nature of your relationship.

I have not yet found a good way to balance this conflicting series of messages. Get closer, but always through the wall that is the virtual nature of your friendship. With friends spread throughout the US and throughout the world, getting to sit down for that cup of coffee can be the ultimate challenge. I don’t even get to sit down for coffee with my local friends very often. Where do we go from here?

I am pondering all of this as I continue along in my online journey. I am anxious that people are falling through my fingers every day like sand because I just can’t talk to everyone all the time. I don’t want there to be another Bruce. But I’m now fairly certain there’s nothing I can do about that.

What do you think about this conundrum? What is your experience?

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/industry_is_virtue/3304376005/ via Creative Commons

 

45 comments
melbo
melbo

I've been reading your posts here for most of the afternoon.  They're very enjoyable and I empathise with so much of what you write. 

 

This post in particular, about connectedness or lack thereof in social media has real poignancy for me at the moment.  I am by nature the kind of person who yearns for real connection.  Something that means something.  I do not buy into the argument that online friends are not real friends and I have no patience for those who try to blow off the medium so readily.

 

That said, I don't for one minute believe that we can ever really know a person - either online or offline.  There are always parts hidden.

 

Like you, this year for me has been characterised by untimely death, suicide and serious illness ... not to me but to some known to me.  I am aware that the nature of modern life means that social circles are effectively widened if one has online as well as real friends.  This doesn't mean that the pain is any less for these connections not being "real world" ones.  I feel weighed down by the effects of all this loss and grief.  I know that this would be true no matter which world the friend inhabits.

 

I too have felt that my need for depth of connection is even harder to come by these days.  The world of social media is still the domain of the extrovert.  It is rapid, shifting and popularity based.  Introverted friendship focuses on deeper and more prolonged connection.  Sometimes I have been able to find this with like minded souls.  Other times, my heart has been broken by the realisation that not all online friends, however lovely they might be, want this or need it from me.  I have recently experienced real grief over a particular friendship which has not developed past its initial promise and I'm still kind of getting over it.  What I've had to realise is that perhaps the other party has all he wants from me and doesn't need any more.  The problem is mine really for not understanding his perspective.  Now to continue to get the heart in line with the head.

 

I am very sorry to hear that someone you knew and trusted online turned out to be a troubled individual who saw fit to take his own child's life along with his own.  I cannot imagine how hard it would be to reconcile the thought of the person you believed you knew with someone who could do that to their own flesh and blood. 

 

For what it's worth, I have often suffered with depression.  I do not buy the line that depression causes people to do things like that.  Generally, when people choose to take the lives of others in a murder/suicide scenario, there are other elements present.  Chief among them is an inability to see that others are separate from themselves and have rights.  Control issues are paramount.  If life appears to be slipping out of their control, they will do whatever they need to rein it back in again.

 

I'm sorry for his wife, for the helpless child who had no choice and for you and his other friends/family who had no idea what was going through his mind.  If it is any consolation to you, you could not have known.  Even if you had lived right next door to him, you could never have known.  Please don't think that you could have done anything to prevent what happened.  He made his choice.  It was the wrong one but it was his.

 

Thank you for this post and I'm sorry to have been so blunt right at the outset.

 

 

 

1stwebdesigner
1stwebdesigner

That's intriguing post and I can completely relate to that as I am working with ~20 people in my team, where I haven't seen any of them in my whole life! Yet I trust them with secure information and count on them to be there when I will need! Very interesting how our communication is changing, sometimes upseting.

FrankReed
FrankReed

We have confused attention with relationship. That will only end in more situations like yours unless we accept the limitations of the online space and not fight it.

 

Unless you can shake someone's hand or even spend time on the phone (or Skype or whatever) where there are facial expressions, body gestures, voice inflection etc you will NEVER really know them and that's fine. It's those who think that online relationships are "real" that are going to experience trouble.

 

We crave attention but we need relationship. Relationships requires work, attention accepts minimal effort. Hence the rub.

sleepygeak
sleepygeak

Sorry. Ran across your post I have no idea how. I will give you my armchair unsolicited analysis :-) 

 

I think you are being to hard on yourself. It seems you are dealing with emotions that everyone experiences after a close suicide. You have framed it in the wrong way. I don't think this has anything to do with being online or offline. Take the online questions out of your post and you are framing questions and guilt that people experience every day with their friends and family. Why me? Why them? What can I do to help? So much to do so little time to do it etc...

 

Just ask yourself what would have been different if you knew this person IRL. One of your close neighbors perhaps. Longtime family friend. If s/he commit suicide you would still be asking the same questions! People are very good at hiding their pain.

 

I am sure you are good friend online and off. All any of us can do is try and try again. Nothing will ever be perfect. A glib and trite answer but a true one...

ckburgess
ckburgess

Margie,

 

So sad about Trey Pennington.  Those of us who knew him only online still feel as though we should have seen a sign. Recognized his agony.   Though not sure any of us truly have that gift of perception, to being able to see beyond into one's soul.  Looking back I could think of a thousand things I could have done to reach out to Trey.  And now, Margie, you told me about Bruce and his son. Only thoughts I have, Margie, is for everyone to master the art of "caring".  Regardless of online/offline.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is that our souls reflects a reason to inspire.  This is a gift that transmits both online and offline.  No barriers will dim the radiance of our inspiration. 

 

Margie, you're an inspiration to us all. 

 

Love,

Cheryl

@ckburgess

 

 

Milaspage
Milaspage

Wow @margieclayman another fantastic post. You know the number one thing everyone has to remember, whether it be online or offline is you have to find your own balance in order to be there for someone else. So, this being said, I believe that people reaching out to talk about their issues with online friends is a good and healthy thing. I am also a true believer that what a lot of people need is simply someone to listen, and sometimes even someone to help them figure out the right direction. Whether you are online or off, any friend can do this, lend an ear, listen truly and deeply and then try and figure out what the person really needs. All you can do is offer what you know.

 

There is also something to be said for my first point, balance - if you (or anyone) are overwhelmed by repeated conversations of this nature, if the conversations go nowhere, if you have offered all advice you can give and you feel you've done all you can do, then you can't exhaust yourself over it. Its okay to pull back a little and just offer that friendly smile. We all touch each others lives, and we all need a helping hand, a word of encouragement from time to time, and I personally have been fortunate to get to hear your voice at the end of a line when I was having a down  day, and let me tell you Margie you're a ray of sunshine! - No wonder you are feeling the draw or pull from around you - but you have to nurture yourself so that you remain healthy, and this is the best way to help long term.

 

What happened with Trey was a tragedy, but there are tragedies happening every single days in every city, people who were not online - you can't possibly expect to see every problem everywhere. Its hard to have known someone and find out you had no idea that it was sadness behind the smile, torment, or pain... so we all do what we can, and thats all we can do.

 

Feel good about the presence you have put out there, your kind words, even your concern, where we can see you want to help and feel helpless - from this post, from your FB, you care. Caring does not give you the super magic power to be everywhere and know everything and solve everything, - who appointed you this role?

 

I am all for helping anyone who reaches out, I cant say that I have ever just ignored someone who needs help - but if i try and help, and i spend the time talking, and i do my best in whatever capacity I have to help- and it isnt enough, then usually what I have to realize is, I am not God. Im not, and I can't help everything and solve everything, and maybe there is a reason I cant, maybe there is somewhere else the person also has to learn from. In a few tough cases where I pulled back, or directed someone to other help- when I couldn't see myself making much progress, things worked out - and I realized sometimes the best help is to realize you cant help everything... listen, show caring, that's worth a lot in itself.

 

One of my favorite books is the Catcher in the Rye, for the scene where he wants to catch everyone - I like to believe I can do anything, save everyone - but as I have grown up (I read that when I was quite young) I started to realize we are a tapestry of people - we have interwoven lives, we each have our parts, and we have to do our best - but we also have to make sure we dont kill ourselves trying to help others, sometimes, listening helps, but sometimes they have a part to do too.  Your heart is so big, youre a total gem Margie. Let me know if I can help. stay inspiring, keep some of your energy, we just love hearing from you- thats all we want :) Remember, youre not "God." we dont expect you to be, youre Margie and we adore you!

Latest blog post: Kat Mandelstein | Perspectives

DixieLil
DixieLil

 @MargieClayman Tough, indeed, Margie.  When I come across posts on fb or twitter that hint at crisis, I respond with an encouraging word because it's the least I can do.  In terms of truly helping people in need in the online world, doubt it's possible, unless they are in your "Close Friends" circle and you have the ability to really connect on a more personal level.  On a personal level, however, you are posting resumes (mine included) on your website, so, yes, you are making a difference! 

sharongreenthal
sharongreenthal

In some ways I think the nature of online friendships is to keep a little space between you and those you meet. You are presenting yourself exactly as you want others to see you - there isn't any way to interpret facial expressions, gestures, or the overall essence of a person. I am new to social media, but I have yet to "befriend" anyone who has been a difficult person to like - and that's what makes it so much fun and so refreshing, but also keeps it at a much more surface level, at least initially. 

 

 

KDillabough
KDillabough

I like what Martina said: "it is a very complicated dance" once we choose to take the floor. What I've learned is that I cannot be all places all the time. I've spent the last year as a student of the online world, doing all the things the "experts" said to do (wish I had a re-do on that one), running as fast as I could to catch up/keep up, constantly learning and evolving and finally accepting that I am one person. I cannot be everywhere. I will not see everything. I will do my best, but it will not always be what others want or need from me.

 

Your line "people are falling through my fingers every day like sand because I just can't talk to everyone all the time" really resonates with me. What I hope is this: that when we are aware, when we are able, when we feel like we can help, when time and circumstance permit, we will be exactly where we need to be. True to ourselves, offering up the best of us. Not chastising ourselves for the reality of not being able to be everywhere, all the time.

 

I think the best part of "online" is to truly be yourself. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Do what fulfills you. Allow others to draw their own conclusions.

Sprint_4G
Sprint_4G

Being friendly is not the same as being a friend.

I agree with both Brandon and Dan...there is no way to be "true" friends with hundreds or thousands of people in any genuine way. You don't know anything more about them than what "they" have carefully crafted as their "public" persona. So how do you identify within these thousands, the cons and liars from the genuine and honest? Quite honestly, you can't. 

I know one person in particular who has more or less left the real world for the virtual world because he cannot maintain in the real world the facade he has created here online. He would have you believe that he is successful, a mentor and an expert in his field. That he is caring, empathetic and honest. In real life it is quite the opposite. Yet he continues to increase his following and you interact with him as if you knew him.

With your true (local) friends, do you limit each other to so few characters when you interact? When you share tears, laughter and hugs with your real life friends, isn't there a need to use more senses than what it takes to read a tweet?

Acquaintances are how I see them. They are people I enjoy hearing from, enjoy reading what they offer up and often learn from. However, I know nothing more about them than what they present. And that is ok.

JohnFeskorn
JohnFeskorn

Margie ~ Your heart is in the right place, but it's going to get broken time and again if you continue to care so much. Yes, it's a complicated thing, but take care of yourself first. As much as you'd like to, you cannot stand on a perch, swoop down to every soul that is troubled; well, unless you're hiding a secret identity :) As for me, I have always been friendly with a lot of people, but take pride in the fact that I can still count my friends on one hand. That's not to say I don't care about my acquaintances, I just don't invest as much of myself with them as I do my friends.   

RababKhan
RababKhan

You're right. It really is a conundrum. but online relationships are very much like IRL because no matter how well we know someone, sometimes we just don't know enough.

Latest blog post: Dinner in the war zone

Martina McGowan
Martina McGowan

It is a very complicated dance Margie. There are people that we feel tremendously close to online, just as face to face.

 

We do the best we can for all the people we carry in our hearts. We can never know everything about what is going on in the lives, hearts, minds, spirits of others. But, we a present to them to the extenet that they will allow us to be.

 

Our responsibility is to pay attention, reach out, help or get them help when they need it, pray, and love them- near or far.

 

Martina

Fierce_living
Fierce_living

One of the interesting aspects of Google Plus is the hangout feature where you not only get to hear the voices of people you know online but you get to know their facial expressions and body language as well when you engage with them on a hangout. I had the opportunity to meet many of those who I have had hangouts with in real life via SXSW this past February (also have met a few people who live in SoCal irl).

 

I think you make a deeper connection when you are able to actually talk to the people you meet on the internet. Speaking as someone who has gone through a lot of the drama that Margie discusses in this blog over the last year I agree that there is not much you can really do except engage and be empathetic. If you show signs of true friendship to those who you click with and share a few intimate details of your life and your struggle most will reciprocate. While you may not be able to solve their problems for them, simply letting them know that you care and are concerned can go a long way towards helping them help themselves. The support that I received from online friends and acquaintances when I was at the end of my rope went a long way to help me make it out of almost literally the depths of hell.  

 

Just do your best to be friendly I think that's all anyone can ask.  

 

 

susansilver
susansilver

I remember back in the olden days I had a LiveJournal. It was online, but my friends were reading it. It was some form of sharing thoughts with people we were seeing everyday in person. Strange now that I look back it all that angst from the twenties that I was trying to process like everyone else. Even though I knew the people, it still feels like false intimacy to share in an "online" journal. In fact I probably over shared which will come back to haunt me as I am sure  nothing disappears from the internet.

 

My online network now is Twitter friends, Facebook groups, and community of commenters. Yet, I still feel closer to them than the people who read my LiveJournal. These people have fought for me, complimented me, encouraged me, and been there for me in my online life. That rocks!

 

Some think the positivity of the internet is false, but I have seen how it has lifted someone in my life out of their depression. 

 

My final answer is this: It is all in how you look at it.

 

Some may feel these things are "fake" that ultimately we cannot get close to anyone. But I wonder what their walls are like? If we are just reflecting on ourselves and our view of the world and putting it onto others. Instead of deflecting to the rest of the internet, the answer may be to turn inward an confront ourselves with how we truly feel about letting others in.

kevjkirkpatrick
kevjkirkpatrick

Great post from a lady with a Big Heart!

I guess my hope is that I can be in the here and now for  those that I Love......& empathetic to the human condition in all worlds both real and digital  I think your post did  "enough" for me Margie as I pause.... and want to do a better job with all!... 

Sara F. Hawkins
Sara F. Hawkins

Hi Margie,

 

It is quite a conundrum. And while I somewhat agree with @danperezfilms that we shouldn't feel we have responsibility for all the hundreds of people we meet online, there is a big part of me that disagrees. The part that disagrees is the part that believes that reaching out to others in their time of need can make a difference. Even if it's a single tweet that's genuinely kind, maybe it will be the perk in someone's day that makes them feel it's not all so bad.

 

We can't save the world. Especially when that world is zipping past us like cars going 95mph. But what to say. What to do? We're busy. If we stop and acknowledge someone's sadness, pain, frustration then that's time from something else on our daily 'To Do' list. But are we really too busy now? Too busy to even acknowledge another human's pain, struggle, sadness?

 

No one said we had to solve all the problems. However, empathy goes a long way. I can stop a foreclosure, give someone a job or make a cheating spouse go away. But what I can do is acknowledge the pain, sadness, frustration and let them know they're not alone.

 

Online relationships are complicated. We often feel a strong connection to someone we've never met face to face. However, as someone who has been friends for nearly 40 years with a gal who started out as a pen pal when I was a child, it's not much different. I traded letters monthly, not weekly, daily, hourly or in real time. I learned about her and her family. I met her face to face about 10 years after or first correspondence. Yes, it's a much smaller scale. But we decide if we're going to be invested.

 

At the same time, we drop coins in the red kettle at Christmas, put together food boxes throughout the year, donate to charities (both online and in our communities) because we feel a responsibility to other people.

 

Isn't the saying, If not us, who?

 

 

danperezfilms
danperezfilms

You're right, "there’s nothing I can do about that.". The quicker you understand that, the smaller your "conundrum" will be. Make your world smaller, not bigger. That way, you won't feel you have some sort of responsibility to catch all the hundreds of people you meet online that may "fall through your fingers". 

Just my two cents...

BrandonPDuncan
BrandonPDuncan

Hmm. Tough one indeed, Margie.

 

Even worse is the "trust factor." I've met people online that I thought had good intentions who ended up being the same sort of liars and con-artists you find on the street. I have met people who I will never know their true agendas---people whom I thought would be great contacts, yet disappeared when I no longer ran my writing group. And then I have met people who I am fairly certain would be happy to stay in touch regardless of the situation I was or wasn't in.

 

It is sad. And like you say, you can never truly know what to do to help folks or even know them well enough to know everything.

 

I suppose the best you can do is just connect with the few who let you in and share with you as they would in real life. I don't think it is even possible to have more than a handful of true, good friends. Everyone else you can know, be acquainted with, and talk to now and then. Then again, I am a bit introverted, so I'm sure that plays a large factor.

 

If you find the answer, let the rest of us know, huh? :)

ToyotaEquipment
ToyotaEquipment

Thanks Marjorie, you've certainly have me asking questions about relationships. I've had the good fortune of meeting a couple of great on line contacts in person, with each meeting [thankfully] I felt good about that early association or friendship, which leads me back to thinking that I wasn't really certain about it until the face to face encounter.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @melbo Thank you for sharing all of this. It's a complicated issue, and you're right, I'm sure I would have been just as helpless and perhaps just as clueless had I been a next-door neighbor. That doesn't make it much easier though. 

Latest blog post: I've Been Doing It Wrong

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @sleepygeak That's how I was thinking about it a year ago, but the longer I stay online and the more people I get to know, the more I'm not so sure. It's much easier for people to hide things online, it seems. In real life you notice changes in behavior, absences from events they'd normally attend, things like that. But in the online world, a person can tweet away merrily while their life is in shambles. It's a bizarre sort of reality, that's for sure :)

 

Thank you very much for your comment! 

Latest blog post: Eulogies for the Living

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @Milaspage There you go again, writing a comment better than my post. What you say is very wise, and I do reach a point where I realize the person is beyond hearing anything. Sometimes you're just not the right person, and that's okay. But I firmly believe it's worthwhile to give it a shot, anyway. Because why not? What does it cost? It's when it does start to cost you something that you may need to reconsider, right?

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @DixieLil Yeah, that's the definite line. Offering a kind word versus really and truly helping somebody. It's hard to put the brakes on when you're going full throttle tho, ya know?

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @sharongreenthal I felt that way initially, but it's hard to maintain a distance when you have friendly conversations with a person day after day for two years (or more). There is something about consistency and longevity that helps a pretty superficial relationship evolve (or at least feel like it's evolving) into something a little more substantial. Or is that just all in my brain?

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @KDillabough thanks Kaarina. It's just all new. I find that even though I feel I've been at this "social media stuff" for ages now, it's really still all very new to me. The more and the longer I dig in, the more I realize I don't actually know. Kind of scary, that :)

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @Sprint_4G Great point. You are right in that people can present themselves however they like here. I always have my antennae up. If a person is constantly asking for money but then showing up at social media conferences, I kind of start scratching my head a little. I have lines I don't cross over where people are involved. I know my limits :)

 

But sending a kind word via Twitter? Heck, that's easy. Painless, even. Right?

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @JohnFeskorn I've heard that advice a lot and it very probably is great advice. I don't really consider what I do "swooping" though. I like to think I offer tidbits here and there, and why not? It's easy. It's no skin off my nose. It's not time consuming or real challenging, for the most part. Lots of people say why not to. I just say why not?

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @Martina McGowan I agree with you there, Martina. I do feel a responsibility. For example, you, who comment here so often, are important to me. You always bring a smile to my face. I'd like to think that if you were going through a tough time, you'd know you could vent if you needed to.

 

Maybe it's about realistic expectations on all sides. Maybe online friends begin with a comfort in venting because there are no consequences. I remember a friend telling me once that she was glad she could talk to me about all of her "real life" friends. They all knew and liked each other so she couldn't confide in them about all that stuff.

 

Crap, did I just add another layer on?

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @Fierce_living Well said, Jim. If only video chatting didn't weird me out so much. I have no idea why it does. I am not skiddish about meeting people online, but video chatting? Yikes! 

 

I think people do reciprocate, but I have also encountered people who, once they discover you are willing to listen, do nothing but complain to you. That can get to be a bit of a bummer as well, and being in the online world, you can't really know how much is legit and how much is just sort of going after attention. Meeting people is definitely a great help in this arena.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @susansilver That's a great point too. I am often criticized for wearing my heart too much on my sleeve, but heck. How long does it take to write a nice tweet to someone? Fifteen seconds? Can I spare 15 seconds for a person I talk to regularly if I see they seem to be having a hard time? I hope so. Maybe not every single time, but why not give it a shot?

 

It would not have taken me long to ask Bruce how he was doing. He may have told me what was up and he may not have, but I would have asked the question, at least. But then maybe finding out what he was going through would have just shown me how powerless I was to help him. So, I go around and around :)

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @saving4someday  Great comment, Sara. I am on the same page as you. It's so EASY to be kind online. You never know when that simple act of checking in on someone or paying a compliment could brighten their day. And you may never know that it did. These things really are not measurable, whereas the business part can be. But as I said to Dan, if someone you met online indicates they need help, it can really shine the light on how different these types of friendships are. You can't just pop over to a person's house if you've never met them before, right?

 

It's confusing.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @danperezfilms You're probably right, Dan. Where it gets sticky is when someone asks you for help specifically, or indicates to you directly that they need help. That's when the decision-making gets a bit tougher.

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @BrandonPDuncan You are probably right that filtering down is a good idea. That being said, there are a LOT of people I enjoy talking to on a regular basis. If something happened to them I'd be really sad. If I found out I maybe could have done something to help, I'd feel pretty darned bad about that. Where is the line?

I have no idea!

margieclayman
margieclayman moderator

 @ToyotaEquipment I also *knock on wood* have only good experiences in meeting people "in real life." It leads me to believe that many people really are the way they present themselves, but there still seems to be a border of interaction there. You're not an "every day friend." 

KDillabough
KDillabough

 @margieclayman Follow you heart, but like the flight attendants say on flights: put the oxygen mask over your own face first. In other words, be sure that you take care of yourself before extending (or over-extending) yourself to others. When we feel compelled to help/support/"be there" at the expense of our own health, that's not good. Take good care.

JohnFeskorn
JohnFeskorn

 @margieclayman You've brightened my day on more than one occasion with your tidbits, and I appreciate that. Thing is, we don't really know most of our online friends (as you indicated), their problems could be much deeper than we know. You can give them that boost, think about them and move about your day, as you should. If they had a flat tire, no coffee that morning, bad hair day, boss getting 'em down, etc...well, okay bright spot! But if their troubles are deeper, then you're going to have to give them something more than a tidbit. But they're going to have to give you more to indicate deeper troubles, and that takes time and trust. You cannot possibly give all that time to everyone. That is why I narrow my scope of friends, and who I take the time to know and who I allow to really know me...as a friend. As you know, I went dark for about a month. Interesting that I had a couple of posts talking of troubles and I would get those boosts, but when I went away, no one knew. After I resurfaced, several people had similar stories. I also went back through my friends list and was surprised that so many folks I once chatted with were absent (mostly from twitter).I don't know, maybe I'm not explaining myself too well. I have to get to work...keep doing what you do, Margie!!