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There are some people who I want to get to know better, mainly childhood friends I've grown apart from, former co-workers and children of my parents' friends. I'm connected to them on Facebook but don't regularly see them in person. I know it's much better to talk to people face-to-face, but more often than not, the opportunity to meet simply doesn't come up. In fact, I typically don't see my parents' friends' children more than once a year and have not met any old co-workers (except by chance) after leaving my previous jobs. And because I don't know yet know them that well, I feel it may come off as too forward to invite them to do something together, even in group settings.

Therefore, I want to know how to make the best out of social media when it's our only means of communication. In other words, how can I use social media to strengthen a friendship with people I seldom see in person?

While I don't expect to become BFFs with someone over Facebook alone, I do want to be close enough friends that they'll be willing to share deeper things with me (and vice versa) and actively include me in their plans. How can I make this happen?

I also have some questions for specific situations:

  1. One piece of advice I often hear is to regularly engage with people. I try to regularly message them and comment on their posts. But at the same time, I don't want to be a pest either by commenting on everything. What's an ideal amount of interaction?

  2. Any specific advice for befriending people who don't log into social media sites often? I found another question that deals with this, but it seems the OP in that situation is hoping for a romantic relationship whereas I only want platonic friendships.

closed as too broad by OldPadawan, Ælis, Alina Cretu, sphennings, ElizB Feb 25 at 16:13

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Hello @Danny Chia, and welcome to IPS! Right now your question is rather broad and slightly difficult to pick out your distinct goals. Could you rephrase it a bit and remove some of those extra sub-questions? I think they take away from understanding your overarching goal. Thanks :) – Anilla Feb 24 at 0:18
  • Sure, I've clarified my question a bit. I've also removed two comments that are probably less on-topic (copied below for the sake of preservation): // 2. Is it better to message someone directly as opposed to posting on their profiles? Or does it depend on the situation? // 4. I'm usually the one to initiate conversations. Besides cheap things like birthday wishes and occasionally "liking" my posts, most people don't reach out to me unless it's for their benefit. Some of them also take a long time to respond to messages. Am I being "acquaintance-zoned"? – Danny Chia Feb 24 at 0:21
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This is a matter of personal opinion - some will agree, others will disagree - but I don't believe that social media is a good way of making, reestablishing or maintaining friendships unless you also regularly see those people in real life.

Here's why I think that.

When Facebook was created it was for students on a college campus to sign up to. In other words, it was an additional form of communication for people that hung out in real life. Obviously, the scope has grown massively since then and it is not the only social network, but despite the constant efforts by the corporations behind them all to make us connect to more people so they can make more money, I believe that they work best when confined to the original scope which is why I have a personal "friending policy" for social media. I don't accept anyone onto my personal accounts unless I associate with them in real life.

I appreciate that your question is about people you don't see "often" - people that you did once spend time with in real life or occasionally still do - and so you might feel what I said doesn't apply. But consider one of the most common complaints that people have about social media. They say that people "misrepresent" their lives on there - showing you only the very best of their lives, from all the best angles. This I have found to be true, but it is not always an intentional deception. We only photograph or document the good times, and when you look at the social media of someone you spend time with you know that this is just the highlights because you are aware of the other not-so-good times. You may even have been around for some of those other times. If you connect to people you rarely see on social media then they may feel that irritation from looking at your "highlights" alone as they never see the rest of your life. They may see you as "dishonest", even if that is not your intention. And no, the answer isn't to put "bad times" on social media. If there is one thing more irritating than the Facebook friend who tries to make their life look more glamorous than it is it would have to be the friend who makes cries for help.

Really, the only kind of person I think you should include on social media that you do not spend time with regularly would be family. Our family want to see the best of our lives.

So I'm going to reframe your question - Are there any more effective ways to become closer friends with people I don't see often?

We all want real friends. A real friend will be happy for us to get their phone number. When you phone or text somebody it is personal - one to one. What you write or say is specifically for them and there can be no doubt that you are interested in them personally and not just saying something in public on social media to make it look like you have lots of friends. If I met a friend that I'd lost touch with I would ask them for their number and then text them, or message them on Whatsapp. I'd try and build up the friendship that way, through regular, personal contact. If they wanted to add me on social media that would be fine with me. Many SoMe apps find your friends from your telephone contacts anyway so one thing would lead to another, but I'd prefer it to be that way around because if I added someone on social media first and they accepted I'd wonder if it was just out of curiosity. It's too easy to connect that way. I'd then feel weird about using SoMe to ask for their phone number. If you are speaking about using Facebook to track down long-lost friends that you have no other way of contacting then I suppose you don't have a choice, but still, try to communicate directly first.

Having said all that, I believe that many people use Facebook messenger as their primary text-messaging service anyway. Also, at time of writing this, I'm aware that Facebook intends to allow cross-messaging between Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram (all of which they own) and so some of what I have said might be redundant. Still, my point is that I firmly believe personal and direct communication is the only thing that really builds friendships. Posting things on a social media timeline is just like shouting into their air and hoping people hear. Most people don't warm to it unless you have an established friendship.

I feel this answers your supplementary question about people who don't often log into social media sites. If you ask for their phone number and communicate that way you don't need to worry about how often they log into Facebook. Also, if they quickly add you to their social media then you know they are regular users; if it takes them some time they may not use them regularly if at all.

Regarding interaction - replies to timeline posts - I think this also comes under my advice on establishing a personal rapport with someone ahead of anything else. Even with the best of intentions, you may irritate someone by commenting on their photos or comments. They may be putting things on there for their close family and friends with whom they share a history and possibly a sense of humour too. Comments from outsiders who may not appreciate either of those things may seem jarring. Your humour may not come across or you may misinterpret theirs. So again, don't make this your first way to interact with someone you don't know that well.

Additional: Just to clarify following your comment - I don't think there is anything unusual about asking for a phone number from someone with whom you have had some real-life connection, especially if you had a rapport. Just say something like "hey, we should keep in touch. Do you have a mobile number?".

There are millions of people out there who you could potentially have great friendships with but whom you may never chance upon meeting, but that is life. The best way to meet people is through people. Make an effort to be a good friend, even with people with whom you might not share lots in common. Every real friend that you make will introduce you to their friends. That is "real-life social networking" and is far more effective than staring into a screen.

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    Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a detailed response. I agree social media isn't a good way to maintain a friendship. But this leads to a Catch-22 situation: it's hard to strengthen a friendship without meeting in person. And without at least a basic friendship, I imagine it would be weird to ask someone to meet up or even ask for their phone number. Is there a good way to break the cycle? Or are some friendships not meant to be? – Danny Chia Feb 25 at 0:43
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    @DannyChia You got to ask yourself how people managed to make friends before social media. Long distance relationships / friendships are not anything new. Some people got married after nothing but writing letters to one another. If you are talking about people with whom you already have a real-life connection, no matter how vague, then I don't believe it is unusual to say "hey, we should keep in touch. Do you have a mobile number?", at least not in Western culture. – Astralbee Feb 25 at 9:46

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