For me, who has spent the greater percentage of her life to date without social media friends, the concepts demand further definition. Is Jimmy Fallon my friend because I follow his daily tweets from The Tonight Show? Of course he isn’t, but I have access to his ideas 24/7 as long as I have an internet connection. On the other hand, my human friends may be out of town or at work or offline (perish the thought). I find myself wondering, do I know that fact or have that opinion because I exchanged ideas with another person or because I had a frequent electronic interaction with a particular point of view? Did I hash out a social argument or did I just absorb it, become saturated with it, through posts on Facebook by people I don’t even know, people who have their privacy settings set to “public” or “friends of friends.” Friends, facts, opinions vs. eFriends, eFacts, ePinions.
A reason for new words is to provide us with a common language. Each individual’s use of terminology helps us understand whether that person has a healthy understanding of social media interactions. A person who cannot clearly distinguish between a social media friend and a human interaction friend might not use the terms correctly or precisely. This would help us recognize, for example, if a child was having an online relationship with someone they had never met, someone whom they really didn’t know. It would be a clue that your widowed father wasn’t getting out much and had become isolated in an online world where he no longer shared human laughter and had become quite lonely. Alternatively, it would be a way to talk about relationships with a highly introverted coworker who seeks help developing vital personal interactions and bridging a gap to emotional fulfillment.
As we evolve as an eSpecies, the percentage of time we spend in electronic versus human interaction will change. These interactions affect our personalities, our relationships, our cultures, our societies. Let’s grow our language to encompass these different worlds and empower us to differentiate between them.