• Matt Black

Social Relationships are Real Relationships

Spending a good chunk of my spare time in the digital universe, I’ve seen things get downright ugly between mutual connections.

Whether it stems from general frustration, differences of opinion or flat out cheap shots, online beefs go from 0-to-100 real quick.

Why aren’t we treating each other better?

Frankly, it’s an incredible thing that I’m able to wake up each day and engage in conversations across continents, spanning time zones, all with a few simple taps on my iPhone.

So how come the marvels of modern technology can’t transcend or put a muzzle on hostility?

Personally, I think people forget that social relationships are the same as relationships in “real life.”

I find myself in conversations where I feel inclined to add the words “from Twitter” or “on Facebook” after I use the word “friend.” It’s a bizarre thing, but it happens regularly. And frankly, it got me starting to question why I do that…?

We’ve become so used to differentiating between our real and online lives, and yet those who have built positive and productive communities understand that digital friendships are a huge part of their everyday.

I mean, asides from bots and spammers, these are still other human beings behind these accounts… so why aren’t they as important as the colleague I see in-person each day?

It all boils down to several misconceptions about the concept of building and maintaining relationships on social media. And frankly, some of these are the basic fundamentals of human communication!

Nevertheless, it’s time to dispel some of the most commonly held myths surrounding your relationships on social:

They aren’t real

Let’s tackle the biggest elephant in the room right out of the gate.

This is simply untrue. Full stop.

There’s honestly no long-winded response needed.

But in 2015, I have built some very meaningful relationships over a variety of different social platforms. Twitter, Slack, Snapchat, Facebook… they’ve all had a hand in enhancing the quality of my day-to-day experience.

These relationships have yielded meaningful conversations about family, money, health, happiness, business, entertainment, sports, culture, values, religion, politics… you get the picture.

To turn around and question the legitimacy or importance of these bonds and the exchanges that go with them would just be wrong and frankly, nonsensical.

Of course my relationships on social are real.

I’d challenge anybody who asserts otherwise to describe what constitutes a relationship as “real” anyways.

My guess is you’ll receive a whole lot of silence in return.

They can be neglected or taken for granted without consequences.

Think about your friendships.

How many of those could survive with zero interaction or some form of engagement?

The truth is not many, if any at all.

If you’re not contributing to the person’s life in any way, whether it’s by creating conversation, helping them live the life they aspire to or providing value in some other form, you may cost yourself a relationship.

It’s absolutely no different on social.

There are many “thought leaders” and “experts” on social media who seem to think that once someone subscribes to their newsletter or connect with them on Twitter, that’s where the “work” stops.

But in fact, it’s a one-way ticket to your frustrated connections seeking advice and support elsewhere.

Who wants to keep fair-weather friends – or follows – around?

Your relationships on social must be nurtured, coveted and even worked on, if you will. It’s just not good enough to neglect the community who props you up and looks for opportunities to engage you. Taking people for granted in-person or online is rude, unnecessary and a sure way to piss someone off.

They’re expendable & easier to back out of

All you have to do is click ‘Unfollow,’ right?

Hmm, it’s not really as simple as that.

Remember: you never know who knows who! It takes literally seconds for me to answer a message or phone call from a friend who’s curious as to the type of person you are.

If you’ve just abandoned our conversation(s) or failed to acknowledge my attempts to contact you, the risk is yours at that point.

The after effects of an ignored DM or unanswered e-mail can linger, much longer than you might want to admit. And as petty as it may seem, remember: you don’t just vanish into thin air in-person. So why would you think that’s acceptable behaviour on social platforms?

Don’t burn bridges by being a jerk. Use the same manners online that you would in the “real” world.

They’re too hard to maintain

Relationships of any kind take time, effort, trust, mutual respect, common interests…

If anything, it’s easier to maintain relationships on social media.

A simple ‘Like’ or ‘RT’ can change someone’s day – and all it takes is milliseconds of your time. Satisfaction derived from in-person relationships can certainly come from simple sources as well. A high-five or pat on the back can ensure someone feels validated.

You’re in a unique position online however, because your support for somebody’s thoughts, content or expressions of emotion can be shared globally. It’s much harder to assemble that large a group at the same time in the same place geographically.

Face the facts: you get what you put into social. If you’re unwilling or disinterested in building meaningful relationships, then going beyond reading tweets or Facebook posts is going to seem like a chore.

You should know that you’re missing out though.

By asking a few questions or being willing to take the conversation onto other platforms (say Slack, for instance) you’ll be able to build genuine bonds that will become important parts of your world.

Thanks to social media, I have been fortunate enough to form friendships with an incredibly dynamic group of people across the globe. And if I’m being honest, all it takes to maintain these strong relationships is to check in and ask how someone’s day is going, or how their family are doing.

If that’s too much to ask, I think you’re better off spending your time elsewhere.

Why is there such a disconnect for some between social relationships and “real life” relationships? Tell me why your relationships on social are important to you. Please share your thoughts with me in the Comments section below.



©2021 by Matt Black Ink | All rights reserved | Toronto