It’s kind of weird living a double life. I imagine that spies and actors must have to work really hard to make sure their public personas and their true souls never cross over, as they act one way with a certain group of people, and then let their guards down among the people they truly trust. But how weird would it be if the people on both sides of the divide were the same people? And each one of them was living a double life as well? Welcome to social media.
Have you ever invited someone to a Facebook event, and then saw them in person and not mentioned it? Have you ever had a great conversation online with someone on a message board or a comment thread, and then hung out with them in real life (IRL), never bringing it up at all? Have you ever asked someone “Hey, did you see that thing I posted?” and gotten a yes or a no, and then that was the end of it? I have had all of these experiences, and more, and while they felt weird to me at the time, upon further reflection they are not weird at all. They make total sense. Because when you live a double life, it is always a bit awkward when they overlap.
So I have my online friends, and my IRL friends. Some of them are the same, and some of them are different, but there is a distinct difference between what makes a good social media friend, and what makes a good physical friend. Online friends post good content (good being subjective and meaning “whatever you find interesting”), they like and share the things that you post, and they comment in thoughtful, interesting, or humorous ways. They may be complete weirdos IRL. They may be super annoying. They may talk with their mouths full, or they may always interrupt you when you are trying to say something, or they could somehow always be in the restroom when the bill arrives. None of these things matter though, when developing your online persona.
Out of all my best high school and college friends, I would say that I am Facebook friends with all of them, and I am good Facebook friends with almost none of them. I do have several very good Facebook friends from my high school and college, but they were not the people I hung out with on a regular basis. They are people who, for whatever reason, started engaging with me online in a way that I responded to. I know, when I post something, who the likely cast of characters are that might respond to it. And they are not my IRL friends.
Now, I do have some IRL life friends that are not on social media. This is very weird. They are not going to read this post. They do not see cute pictures of my dog. They just see my actual cute dog. They do not get updates on the funny things my children say. They have to use their archaic ears to listen to those funny things. And I also have some IRL friends who I am connected to on social media, but who are not the people that I engage with online. We hang out, have fun, play games, sing songs, tell stories, but we don’t really do the same online. Maybe they are just online less than I am. Maybe they have too many online friends, and so cannot possibly see all of the updates from every person. Or maybe our double lives just don’t connect the way our IRL ones do.
I do have to point out though, before this message self destructs, that there are a few rare people that I engage with frequently online, and who I also hang out with on a regular basis. One of them is my mother. Another is my wife. The rest I can count on one hand. But I have to say, these are the most satisfying relationships in my life. Not that I don’t love interacting with you all, dear readers. And I know that distance is what separates some of us, preventing that IRL connection. But only having online friends is just not completely satisfying. And actually, sad to say (but I’m being honest here), it is a little frustrating, not being able to share my online life with my only IRL friends. It may not seem like it on some days, but I put a lot of time into this blog, and my online presence. In this new future in which we live, it’s almost off-putting to deal with the unconnected.
So the thing, I think, is synergy. Interconnectedness. Pandimensionalcrossliferating. Balance. I can accept that some friends do not want to plug in. But what a joy it is to share both of my lives with someone. Even though I know there will always be people about which I say, “We’re only friends online.”