With Facebook's imminent announcement of reaching half a BILLION users, I am sitting here this morning wondering what this world of "virtual friendships" means to me.
Ok, I'm a long way from the Facebood 'friend' max of 5,000, but even so, it's pretty obvious that this interlinked society of high school chums, former work associates, social-climbers, and strangers-who-like-the-same games-that-I-like, has made a huge impact on my communication habits. Instead of picking up the phone to call a friend about seeing a movie, now I post "I want to see that cool new Indie film" as my status and see who responds. I find out that a friend is home sick, or has lost a loved one by reading their updates. I read the news by scanning links shared by other friends (Go Argentina!). I don't have time to be bored, there is just to much to keep up on at Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and MySpace and Blogger and and and . . .
But I wonder, is this virtual society less personal than a phone call? In this age of caller-ID and cellular phones, sometimes I feel a little too "connected." I'm often on the phone for hours with clients, and just want a little quiet time for myself. I mean sometimes my friends can whine and whine! So yes, maybe it is less personal, but maybe that isn't such a bad thing.
Does social networking give me the same satisfaction as a 'hand-written' letter? I used to be a pretty good letter writer. Then, it was only Christmas cards, but in the last five years, I don't think I've even gone through a booklet of stamps. Though I've saved some letters for over 30 years (still get great joy rereading them), there is a thrill in receiving a text message from my niece announcing that she just qualified for Nationals, or a photo from a fellow-foodie of the plate sitting in front of her that she's delayed digging into, just so she can show us what it looks like. There just isn't anything better (yet) for sharing the moment with those you care about (or just anyone that will read it).