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Posts Tagged ‘IRL’

The Value of Online Friendships and IRL

bff, by eflon

Two years ago at SXSW I met two people in real life for the first time. After meeting each other, we didn’t have that awkward “getting to know you” phase, instead we were chained to the hip debriefing about sessions and mapping out how each of us were going to make our impact in the world. When we’d meet new people and they asked how we met, we’d answer simultaneously, “On Twitter!”

“You mean you didn’t just meet here?”

Well, sorta. You see, the three of us had been talking for two years online and SXSW happened to be the first time that we were all in the same physical room together.

We joked that we were “IRL-ing,” which is the active verb of spending time “in real life” together as opposed to online. And it was fun, too.

Think about the closest friends that you have, the ones that you can share anything with. Now think about how long it took you to get to that point of comfort with your friend. Years, probably.

Friends vs. Friendship

Yesterday, Monica Guzman wrote about the term “friends” and how in the age of social media, are all of the “friends” that we have online actually friends, or just people we know who we call friends?

She writes about the difference between friends and the role of friendship:

How many people can I turn to in a crisis? A small group of family and close friends I’d think to reach out to — if I keep the trouble offline.

But if I take it online, if I decide that’s all right, it’s all of them plus an unpredictable number of other friends, acquaintances, professional contacts and even strangers who might help, maybe more quickly or more effectively than the people I know and see the most.

These tech-connected “friends” won’t ever replace the flesh-and-blood people with whom we form deep, enduring relationships. But they can act the part a time or two, and even audition for a permanent role….

So are people friends if they act like friends for a moment here, an hour there? Can we draw clean lines between our networks and our friends once and for all?

No, we can’t, and maybe we shouldn’t. Because when we’re so connected, the prevalence of friends doesn’t matter nearly as much as the prevalence of friendship.

The question about if a person is really a friend or not is something that we’ve all wondered for years (just ask any heart-broken teenager). But are the conversations and relationships we have and build online real or not?

Stop Valuing IRL Over Your Online Life

My friend Mouyyad of IRL-ing fame sent me this video of Alexandra Samuel’s talk at TEDxVictoria in which she gives Ten Reasons to Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life (video embedded below). She says:

We are so used to apologizing for our online reality that we actually have an acronym for it: I. R. L., in real life. And you see people all over the Internet itself using this acronym to say, ‘What I’m doing right now online does not count. It’s not real. Reality happens elsewhere.

Wait, so that conversation that I had with someone last week on Twitter that turned into a freelance project wasn’t real? And the person who I met two years ago online who’s turned into one of my closest most trusted friends, isn’t real?

Alexandra’s talk is centered on the idea of “Real Life Too,” a new acronym to embrace and properly recognize all those activities that we do online as being real.

That anonymous person who left a hateful comment on your blog? They’re real. That blogger you’ve been connecting with who lives on the other side of the world? They’re real. That person who lives in your same city who you’ve tweeted with at events but have never shook hands? They’re real, too.

Alexandra Samuel: Ten Reasons to Stop Apologizing for Your Online Life at TEDxVictoria

I still love the term “IRL” because to the friends who I have IRL-ed with, it’s a joke. After building up trust and being our real selves with each other online for years, we were able to skip the awkwardness that comes with meeting people for the first time and jump right into being “friends.” We know that where our friendship started, online, is as real as what happens offline.

I think about all of the “friends” I have on Facebook and how many of them I’m actually friends with, care about, or are just “friends” with because I’m curious to watch what they do in their life. All of that is real, and just because the interactions that we have with each other happen online doesn’t make it any less real.

What do you think, is online life as real as offline life?

Photo by eflon