authentic relationshipsFriend, authenticity, transparency and relationships.  They are all words we use frequently when we talk about the online and social world. We discuss the importance of being real, authentic and building relationships built on giving and sharing.

Definition of Friendship from Wikipedia:

Value that is found in friendships is often the result of a friend demonstrating the following on a consistent basis:

  • The tendency to desire what is best for the other
  • Sympathy and empathy
  • Honesty, perhaps in situations where it may be difficult for others to speak the truth, especially in terms of pointing out the perceived faults of one's counterpart
  • Mutual understanding and compassion
  • Trust in one another (able express feelings – including of the other's actions – without the fear of being judged); able to go to each other for emotional support
  • Positive reciprocity – a relationship is based on equal give and take between the two parties.

The question is are we over using the words so much that we are dilluting the meaning of these words.  Are we diluting the meaning of a friend?  A true friend.  A real, authentic, accepting and transparent friend.

Lastnight I attended a step class at a local gym.  This gym is not “just a gym”.  It's more like a second home to many.  It's where you can come as you are, be who you are and be accepted.  No fake smiles, fake personalities.  Just real people trying to get in real shape. It's where you can take your day off and sing your heart out with everyone watching and nobody cares!

I hadn't been to this particular gym in a few months as I have been so busy I have been going to a sister gym closer to where we do business.

As I walked in the gym last night it was like I had never missed a day.  I was greeted with hugs and hellos that warmed the heart.  People knew I had been gone. They were excited to see me.  They didn't care I had put a few pounds back on due to my crazy busy schedule and falling off the wagon some.  They were all there to cheer me and everyone else on because they genuinely cared.  Because they were friends.  I felt accepted and loved within two minutes of walking in the door.

For an hour we stepped, danced, yelled and screamed with our step leader Cindy.  She is one of the best step instructors this side of Texas.  She is the first person I met when we moved to Florida.  She helped me shave off more than 30 lbs a couple years ago.  We've been on beach weekends together.  Our kids play together and just seeing her lastnight warmed my heart. That's a real friend.

gym friends So as I shimmied and I shook to some jammin' tunes with friends all around me it hit me.  I was reminded how it important it is that we do not get so lost in our online tweeting, Facebook world that we lose site of real people.  We need to keep our offline friends connected.  How many of your online friends would notice you were gone if you disappeared for 30 days?  How many of them do you know their kids? Their dog? Their troubles in life, marriage or work life?

I am not stating that we can't have authentic, transparent and real friends that we meet online.  I have many.  I am simply stating that we must also nurture our offline relationships.  A hug from a real person can warm your heart in an instant.

Just because someone retweets you does not make them your real friend.  What do you know about that person? What do they like to do? Do they have kids? Why are you friends? What do you have in common other than being on a same list on Twitter?

I encourage you to truly focus on getting know people.  Instead of retweeting 20 people in one day why not pick one or two.  Really read their blogs.  Follow their tweets.  View their profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook and wherever else they are.  Get to know them in a real, authentic way and strive to be a real, authentic friend.

I believe the power of friendships also lies in our hands.  We can build more real relationships.  Or we can choose to be distant, to blindly retweet, not engage and just go with the flow.  The same goes for online as offline.  Be a friend to get a friend.

The question is what do you consider a friend?

Your Turn

How do you balance your offline and online world? Are you nurturing your offline friends as much as you do online?  Could you be a better, more authentic friend online?

See this article syndicated on Social Media Today