What do your online connections mean to you? Are they simply a source of “likes” on your blog, endorsements on LinkedIn, and great material to share on Google+? Or do you perceive them to be something much more valuable—friends?
Or do you perceive them to be something much more valuable—friends?
Thanks to the internet, we are now able to meet fascinating people from all over the world. And, with a little effort, you can transform an online acquaintance into a lasting friendship.
Here are a few tips for turning computer contacts into bosom buds.
1. Pay attention
You likely possess a wealth of information about the friends in your life. You know their likes and dislikes, what they do for a living, where they grew up, and you probably even remember their birthdates. But how much do you know about your online friends?
If your honest answer would be some variation of “diddly squat,” then you need to get your act together and start showing a greater interest in the lives of your internet friends. Ask Martha from Witchita how her hip surgery went. Congratulate Brooklyn Bob on his blog’s anniversary. And send Lucy, the scrapbooker, a helpful link on page layouts. This will show each of them that you care enough to pay attention to what is going on in their lives. And it will help to foster closer relationships.
2. Focus on the friend at hand
Don’t you hate it when you go out with a friend and they spend half the time texting other people, people who didn’t even make the effort to be here in person? Your friends, both online and off, deserve your undivided attention.
If you are chatting online, don’t use it as an opportunity to multi-task. Instead, view it as a chance to get to know your friend better. Focus on what they are saying. Don’t conduct multiple simultaneous chats, surf the net for things to “pin,” or harvest your virtual crops. Not only is it rude, it tells your online friend that they are not worthy of your undivided attention.
3. Adopt a role
When you think about your circle of “in the flesh” friends, you will notice that each person likely fills a certain role. You may have a joker, an adviser, a nurturer, or even a hopeless flake that makes the rest of you feel better about your lives. Everyone seems to fill the niche that best suits their personality. What role do you play?
When it comes to forging an online relationship, you need to do more than simply have a presence. You need to establish a role in their lives. For instance, maybe you are the helpful person who regularly provides them with links that pertain to their favorite hobby. Or maybe you’re the one who always makes them laugh after a hard day. To nurture a friendship, you need to fill a role in someone’s life that comes naturally to you.
4. Don’t play a disappearing act
Friends are people that you know you can count on. They don’t disappear for lengthy periods of time and then waltz back into your life like nothing ever happened — unless, of course, it is the friend who has assumed the role of the “flake.”
In order to maintain an online relationship, you need to keep in touch. If you’re going away for an extended period of time, let your internet friend know that you’ll be out of touch for a while and that you aren’t deserting them.
5. Remember—facial expressions don’t work online
When you’re chatting with friends face-to-face, you can be your sarcastic self. When you call your friend the “neighborhood tramp,” she can see that you are just joking. Your online friends, however, can’t.
Your clever jibes may not seem so clever without your accompanying body language. In fact, they may appear outright mean. Refrain from unleashing your rapier wit on your unsuspecting online friends. And never refer to them as the neighborhood tramp.
6. Make it 3D
One way to solidify an online friendship is to take it to the next step, entering the three dimensional world.
Skyping is a great way to put a face and a voice to the person that you have been chatting with online. It will give you a better idea as to whether or not the two of you actually gel. And it will give you the opportunity to show off your trademark sarcasm, facial expressions and all.
If things go well with Skype, you may even plan to meet in the flesh. Not only will this solidify your friendship, but it may also afford the opportunity to travel to somewhere interesting. This could be a great argument for seeking friendships in tropical climates.
Admittedly, creating a lasting friendship with an online contact does require you to overcome a few significant barriers, but with a little effort, it can be accomplished. Remember to treat your internet friends as you would any other friend — minus the bazingas.
What tips can you give someone who wishes to transform an internet contact into an online friend?