Are Social Media Relationships “Real” Relationships?

I read an article this week about how the leaders of churches and other houses of worship are using social media to reach out to more people (You can read it here.)  Now you all know that I counsel avoiding strong opinions about politics and religion, and that is not the purpose of this post.  Rather, what intrigues me is what happened when I shared the post, and the debate it sparked about whether or not houses of worship SHOULD be using social media.

Those of you who have heard me speak have probably heard me talk about the various ways that social media has enhanced relationships in my life.  When we adopted our children, I had the sincere pleasure of participating in an online community that was hosted by our adoption agency.  There, we could talk to other parents who were waiting for their children, sharing support and advice.  The relationships we built was very real, and to this day I stay in contact with many of those folks. We enhance that initial bond with face to face meetings when we can, and those families are THERE for each other in a very powerful way.

I also sometimes share the story about how when my family joined a new church, we didn’t have the opportunity to get to know people all that well in the 10 minutes of coffee hour after the service.  But then a couple of the members friend-ed me on Facebook.  We began to learn a bit more about their day to day lives.  And we found common ground that helped us feel more connected to the congregation as a whole.  On Sundays, we had people to talk to.  We got more involved.  And we’re still there today.

Whether it’s your house of worship or your direct selling organization, part of your success lies within your ability to connect with people and form relationships.  Without relationships, the entire infrastructure crumbles.  And what I love about social media is that the daily-ness of it, the mundane, helps us to get to know people. It’s not just about your compelling message.  It’s the ability to connect with people, and understand where they’re coming from.

Are social media relationships real relationships?  I certainly think so.  And when combined with face-to-face relationships, I think social media can strengthen the bonds between people in powerful ways.  People don’t care what your message is if you haven’t built a level of trust.  People HAVE to know, like, and trust you in order to go any further.  And whether that’s religion or business, why wouldn’t you use every tool at your disposal to strengthen relationships?

As I said before, I’m not trying to spark a religious debate.  I don’t think you should be preaching the Bible, the Qur’an, or the Torah as your status updates (or your latest sales and promotions, for that matter.)  Instead, the focus is on connecting with people over the daily stuff that helps us connect.  If that leads to a face to face encounter, that’s even better.  Until the relationship is established, nothing else matters.

So are social media relationships “real” relationships?  I think so.  And their ability to help us understand people through what they do daily can’t be discounted.  Whether your end goal is religion or business, if you don’t focus on WHO people are first, you’ll never reach them.  But once you do, you can enhance relationships in ways that bring real value to both of you.

Your thoughts?

Image Credit: Editor B

4 Responses to Are Social Media Relationships “Real” Relationships?
  1. Karen Shillieto
    August 22, 2010 | 10:22 am

    In addition to keeping connected with family members and old high school buddies, I have found FaceBook especially helpful to develop realationships with the people I meet at parties, fairs and networking meetings. When we friend each other and connect on my page as well, I have found that sharing the little bits of our day really helps develop and cement the relationship. As we get to know each other, when we meet again in person we really do have a lot to chat about. I’m excited to have a new group of friends to meet for coffee or a drink whether or not business is transacted. I can’t imagine my world without social media.

  2. Barb Maurais
    August 21, 2010 | 7:15 am

    Social media is simply another tool that allows people to connect, check in with one another and keep in touch. Just as the telephone and written letters allow us to communicate and interact, so do sites such as Facebook, Yahoo groups, YouTube and MySpace. Facebook, in particular has allowed me to keep up with the activities of family and friends who live far away. Our sorority group has resulted in new friendships with wonderful gals who attended college after I had left and has allowed me to reconnect with sisters whom I had lost track of through the years.
    Used responsibly and with boundarie,s social media can enhance your relationships. In one of her previous blogs, Jennifer posed a great filter question that I am using as a screen for my postings, “Do people have to spend money to take advantage of this status update?” When the answer is no, I am good to go.

  3. Kristy
    August 20, 2010 | 9:28 pm

    I agree with you, social media can be a great tool to strengthen relationships. I use facebook to stay in very close contact with cousins and family members I love dearly, but who live hundreds of miles away. We would have no idea what is going on in each other’s lives. I have become friends with people I never would have met otherwise through social media. Whether we like it or not, the internet is moving our world in that direction. I am quite grateful myself, it has made our world a much smaller place…in a good way! I am not naive enough to think there are no dangers, I know there are, but I guess that is a whole other discussion!

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