What is a “Healthy Friendship” anyway?
Sometimes – often-times, you’ll find yourself thinking about your friends. About your friend list. Online friends have become pretty important in today’s world. I have a ridiculous number of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn “Friends”. I really get a lot of value from these “friends”. But sometimes I get the heebie-jeebies from these “friends”. Some friends can tear at my heart-strings, others can make me cry, wound me deeply, de-value me and, at worst, give me nightmares!
Firstly, I didn’t intend this post to be about Healthy Friendships – my intention was to post about Maintaining Friendships. See, the idea that one should maintain their friendships and not let them stagnate or dwindle, is quite an important topic and I will keep you informed on this issue in future posts.
Today, however, I’m not sure where/how or when the word “Healthy” snuck into my draft post, but nevertheless I think I’ve found a topic which strikes a nerve with me, and I hope it resonates with you too. So here goes anyway. I want to explore the world of Internet friendships firstly.
Do you have a Facebook/Tumblr/Twitter etc “friend” who :
- has been known to complain about someone
- has posted about the fact that they’ve had to de-friend someone
- frequently posts comments about a toxic relationship or an experience with another “friend” that has dragged them down?
- seems to be a very depressed person who likes to share his or her misery online.
- constantly posts memes or platitudes, but never posts anything about themselves or their life.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Having these kinds of people on your Facebook page or any other social media site is quite probably not healthy for you. If this person is commenting about such things publicly, chances are that they too are suffering from an unhealthy relationship – either with individuals in their circle of friends or – with themselves.
This type of “friendship” is not a healthy relationship. Not for you (their reader) or for the person who posted the comments.
You may question how I can remark that such a relationship is not healthy for the person who makes the post? This is an interesting argument. Indeed, is it best for the “author/editor/writer” to put their grief/agony/pain/complaint OUT THERE, or is it best to keep it quiet? These questions only lead to further questions:
- “Is it best for ME?”
- “Is it best or my readers?”
Answering these questions
Is it best for ME to put my complaints/agony/pain/grief on my social media site?
- who is the comment aimed at?
- why do I need the attention of an internet vehicle anyway?
- does it elicit any true friend’s feedback?
- am I driving people away?
- is anyone really listening?
Is it best for my readers, when I post my grief/agony/pain/complaints?
I’m pretty sure most people who post their greif, agony, pain or complaints are not asking themselves that question.
So, when you’re trawling through your news feed, do you find yourself rolling your eyes and tut-tut’ing at their posts and moving on to the next item? Then, if so, why do you continue to read their posts and ignore them? Is this person really a friend?
Really? If this person is truly a “friend”, then where are you? Are you ignoring their posts? Are you liking? Are you commenting? Are you getting on the phone and speaking with them as a true friend would do?
In today’s socially-networked and online world, it is so easy to think that we are connected to our “friends”. But being on a friend list does not make you a real friend. There are some important things you need to do in order to maintain healthy friendships.
Don’t stay “friends” (online) with people who bring you down. If their posts are toxic and affecting you when you visit your social site, it’s easy to de-friend them. Be careful not to post any comments about them once they’re no longer your “friend”, because the internet has ears (their friends may still be friends of yours). If the person you have de-friended is an IRL friend (in real life), then it’s ok to conduct your friendship IN REAL LIFE. But you don’t need to immerse yourself in their negativity every time you’re in your social media place.
When you see something posted that makes you worry or wonder about the other person, REACT. Don’t just “like” their post.
- You must COMMENT if that’s what you’re comfortable with.
- Private Message them if nothing else is possible
- Pick up the phone and have a real conversation with them!
- Email them
- Write a note or a sweet greeting card and mail it.
- Get in the car if you feel it’s necessary, and go and visit them.
How much of a friend are they really, if you can’t do at least this much? How much of a friend are YOU?
So how do you really maintain a friendship with an online friend? I take my lead from my son, whose girlfriend he met online. Skype. Facebook. Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, Telephone, Text, Instant Message. It’s primarily important to stay connected.
If your relationship is the “once a month” or “once a week” style, then really go out of your way to make an effort and connect with that person by instant messaging or sending them an email (addressed to them and personal, not just some form-letter or meme). When you email, send them your phone number. If you haven’t already got their number, this might be the way to get it. Never under-estimate the value of voice to voice contact… it’s almost as good as face-to-face! Now and then a phone call to someone on your “friend list” will do YOU a world of good.
Now I just need to take my own advice. Which one of my 526 friends had the last phone call?
For more on maintaining heatlhy friendships, check out our Family and Friends page.