It is something that most people would have expected but research just released has shown that people have more online friends than physical ones.
This isn’t a surprise for one thing having more online friends is a result of the fact that you can meet multiple people and have extensive conversations through social networks in much less time. The research commissioned by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust said most of us have around 121 online friends compared to an average of 55 physical ones. The point of the research was to demonstrate the importance of the Internet for those unable to physically socialise because of illness.
In most cases with physical friends we take great care and put a lot of effort into keeping in touch with them and developing the relationships. Unfortunately, for some the online friends are not treated in the same way. They may be amassing followers or friends but have no thought to maintaining those connections.
How many times does a person send messages to people individually through Twitter, or highlight and post new elements through Facebook? Or are they just broadcasting things to everyone without any thought?
The key to making the most of online friends is to treat them in the same way you would physical friends. In short there are some simple rules:
1. Keep in touch with them.
Don’t just broadcast. Make sure you send updates or have direct conversations with your friends.
2. Send them things they will be interested in.
It shows that you have been thinking about them and what they are interested in if you highlight something you have found.
3. Remember key dates and events, and celebrate them together.
Many social networks include details of birthdays and anniversaries and you can note them and celebrate together. There are also national and international events that you can highlight to your friends.
4. Help to introduce people to new friends
In the same way as you may host a physical party, you can use social networks to introduce your friends to people who they may have never met.
At the end of all this, the opportunity always exists to take the online friends into the physical world. There have been a number of events and occasions recently where I have been able to finally meet up with people who I met originally through Twitter. The social network has acted as an introduction and I felt I knew something about the person before I met them – saving a bit of time.
I am sure many media outlets will wail about the decline in society at the news that people have more online than regular friends. Let’s not worry about it but embrace the opportunities and remember that online friends need the same support as physical friends. That is if we want to keep them.