Social Media: The End of Friends? Or the Beginning of Friendship?

Remember all those curmudgeonly quips about how online “friends” were cheapening the real thing? How the Facebook generation was mistaking true friendship for the faux, virtual kind?

Can we finally lay all that to rest?

Who’s Kidding Whom?

People with a thousand LinkedIn connections, 2,000 Facebook friends and 10,000 twitter followers are perfectly aware that what they have is not the same thing as the relationship with their high school buddies.  They don’t even use “relationship” to describe it.

But neither are those connections always number-bling (though yes, some of them are).

Social media hasn’t so much redefined “friend” as it has offered a new channel to find friends.

LinkedIn and Twitter are to friends what Match.com was to dating – a vastly superior mode for doing lead-generation and processing early-stage pleasantries.  Does anyone really think singles bars were a preferable way to find romance?

The online dating services, like online genealogy services, simply made it vastly easier to broaden the range of people from whom one might choose to become better acquainted.

The Social Impact on Business

I find my business life has been remarkably impacted by social media these past few years.  A lot of the people I now call friends – real friends, in the old-fashioned meaning of the word, and rich business acquaintances – I have initially met through social media.

People like @davidabrock, @iannarino, @julien, @chrisbrogan, @johngies, @zerotimeselling (Andy Paul), @jillkonrath, @robincarey, @ianbrodie, and more, I have gotten to know personally – through social media.

Social media are a “starter drug,” if you will; just because you “friend” someone on social media doesn’t mean you’ll end up being real friends.  But increasingly, a lot of real friends start out with the online “friend” channel.

Online “friends” may not be friends, but they can be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.