There is a thing about the ‘relationship’ created by silent following/reblogging/liking that I’ve always been missing IRL, even before social networks existed:
I was thinking about it because I remembered this woman I studied with; we worked a bit together at the maths faculty, and we had mutual friends and met sometimes, but we never established a personal bond. But I always liked and admired her and found her interesting and special, and I think about her sometimes. And I still think it would be nice for her to know she made this impression on me, especially because she generally didn’t seem too confident.
I could now make this great jump, and write to her after ten years, and it would perhaps be a great thing (It can be, I’ve done this before), and perhaps she would answer, a bit embarrassed and flattered, and perhaps we would exchange emails and become friends, and it’s not a bad thing, but honestly it is not what my feeling is about. I am not even so good in handling many friends and I don’t want to make a life-changing intervention. I just want this positive feeling of mine that I have towards her to be of some use to her. Just to brighten her day a little bit, and that’s that. Perhaps she has no idea there are people around who silently admired her. It would be nice to know, wouldn’t it?
The same goes for complete strangers I see in the street and I think “Great beard style” or “Wow your eyelashes” or “What an interesting bumper sticker on your purse”. I could go and tell them, and I have done it in some occasions, but it’s hard for an introvert, and it also might not be totally pleasant for them, depending on what they are doing and if they enjoy being talked to by strangers. And it’s not that I necessarily want to talk to them and get to know them, I just somehow think it’s a pity they will never know there is someone (or even many people?) who think they have a beautiful voice, or a great taste in hats?!
So I really think people who fear having 2000 ‘friends’ on a social network is ruining the concept of friendship are getting it wrong.
We can still get intensely close to people, exchange deepest thoughts and feelings up to falling in love, with people we meet IRL and with people we meet online. But there is an additional way of interacting and just giving this little (or medium sized) bit of admiration to the person it’s directed at, even if we don’t want more. I enjoy that immensely, on the giving and on the receiving end.