Are they really your friends?

The other day I was asked is it easy to make friends in Adelaide? Being new(ish) to Adelaide, having moved here a year ago, I thought I was qualified enough to answer the question. But as I started to do so doubt set in and here’s why.

My reply to the question was: “Adelaide is a very friendly place and networking easy (doubt sets in here)… there are good social networks and groups via social media as well as plenty of groups etc from wine drinkers to sports”. Now that looks to be a very clean and agreeable answer don’t you think and you’re all probably thinking “why do you have doubt in your mind Andrew” well I will tell you. At the point doubt set in I was thinking “wait a minute do I actually have any friends in Adelaide, if yes are they just people I follow on Twitter and are they actually ‘real’ friends”? The fact I was being asked the question via a follower in Sydney on Twitter is where the real doubt comes from as since being in Adelaide my use of Twitter has increased tenfold and now the majority of people I interact with on a daily basis are through this platform and live in or around the greater Adelaide area but I was unsure if any of these people could actually be classed as a friend. (In fact I only really started using Twitter when I found out I was moving to Australia as a way to find out more about the country, in particular South Australia and start following people and companies I would be working or engaging with.)

However before I discuss Twitter as a friendship base we first have to understand what a friend is in the true definition of terms. A simple online English dictionary (a very qualified source of the meaning of words… right) states:

Friend

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.

2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.

3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.

So in reality quite wide ranging in definition from someone you trust, admire and would share thoughts with to someone you are merely acquainted with or have comradeship (Privet to my Russian Friends) but how does this translate in reality… that’s real life not being locked up for 12 weeks in a house or trying to survive with 9 other dropouts on a desert island.

For me a friend, a ‘real friend’, is someone who will drop everything to be there for you when they are needed most. A person who without fail will help out when you put in the call. I know this because as with life’s little up and downs I have been far enough down to realise who my ‘real’ friends are and even after I have accounted all my friends/followers over Twitter, Facebook etc I can honestly admit to being able to count my ‘real’ friends on one hand and they don’t come from Twitter.

But… and this is a big but (I cannot lie), in this modern socially mobile world are platforms like Twitter now offering a pseudo-friendship base for people like me who no longer live in the country they went to school or university and where most ‘real’ friendships are built. Again I have doubt in my mind. On Twitter you can certainly talk to someone candidly about personal subject matters but can you expect the physical and sometimes emotional support offered by ‘real’ friends. Also when getting to know someone on Twitter are people actually being true to themselves or living the life through a second persona, the person they want or fear to be in ‘real’ life. Are you in fact becoming friends with an avatar and are you intrinsically do the same when tweeting a message?

To make a point of this of all those I follow I have probably only physically met 50 people (who have personal accounts) and of those I have probably had a meaningful conversation face to face with only half again, even less if you discount family on Twitter… friends hmm.

At the time of writing this I have 364 followers on my personal Twitter account, a mixture of family, colleagues and companies/organisations (some probably spam) but not one person I would call a ‘real’ friend. Not one person who when looking back at the definition of friend who I think I could especially trust and certainly in my own definition rely on to drop everything when the poo hits the fan. In going back to the original question asked to me and my answer and especially linked to Adelaide then yes it is an amazingly friendly place… if you have Twitter. The hashtag #Adelaide can get you many quick responses to questions about the city such as where to do things, where to eat and whats on but when it comes to real friendship I’m still to be convinced that those I have ‘befriended’ online are in reality friends indeed. But could they one day be, maybe I need to get out more.

Your thoughts? Could you trust a friend who you have met through Twitter as you would trust a friend you have had since school?

Originally published at smeekmedia.com.au.

Innovative Community Engagement. @engage2act Director and Board member, #engage2act advocate, #gatehashing instigator.

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