On Social Media and Real Life Virtual Friendships » VSB

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On Social Media and Real Life Virtual Friendships



Friendship is important. That’s really an understatement. In 2016, friends aren’t necessarily confined to the workplace, school or IRL situations. Social media has become a very viable platform to create new and fulfilling bonds between new people from distant places to whom we wouldn’t, otherwise,  have access. The feelings of wanting to belong or be loved don’t disappear when we sit behind keyboards or our phones. And not for nothing, some connections are deeper than real life relationships could ever be. The heart doesn’t distinguish between the two.

Sisterhoods and brotherhoods form over exchanged pleasantries, tragedies, fuckboys, love and heartbreak, faux Becky feminists, or any other range of topics which bring us together.

I am not exempt. In fact, my husband will complain sometimes to me for spending so much time “with those people I don’t know”. *insert side eye* But I do know them though. Fuck it. It’s not worth explaining to someone who barely uses his Facebook. Bae has like 50 friends and can barely post a selfie. Good day, Sir!

I digress.

We take everyday interactions on social media for granted. Folks like to boast about having the ability to detach themselves from the people with whom they interact on Facebook, Instagram, etc. They make damn near orgasmic declarations of how they are so much better than the other people who can’t control THEIR histrionic outbursts. All because “this isn’t real life”.

I’m calling bullshit.

Last Saturday night, I called my homie, Val Rich (an amazing tarot card reader btw), to check on her AND get the latest tea. She is someone whom I met on Facebook. We’ve yet to meet in person but I love her to death. We were having the finest of kikis when Val, suddenly, became quiet. She was eerily quiet and guarded. Then, she proceeded to ask if I knew Lanika Ortega? The name didn’t sound familiar to me so I responded, “No.”

Val: “You gotta know Lanika. She’s a regular commenter on my page…. You don’t know her?”

Me: “Naw.. why wassup with her?”

Before I continue, let me say that if you’re interacting with folks everyday and you may or may not remember their names. In that moment, her name didn’t ring a bell.

Val: “Last Saturday (8/27/2016), Lanika was killed. Let me find the news story. Lanika Ortega..I’m gonna send it to you…. you don’t remember her?”

Me: “Wait what?  NAW. What the fuck? What happened?”

This is where shit gets real. Val went on to tell me that Lanika was murdered by her husband. She was stabbed to death by her husband. This sister bore him 3 beautiful children, had a PHD, was a social worker and a doting grandmother. And gone. Killed in the driveway of her Yuma, Arizona home. At.the.age.of.37. Let that marinate. Valerie was in tears. I’m talking about soulful weeping. She spoke of her homegirl with love, respect and reverence. She mentioned a conversation they had a few months before her death. Lanika spoke of wanting to empower herself, she wanted to rebuild her self-esteem. I can, only, imagine that her monster of a husband had drained that from her. Lanika wanted to be happy and enjoy life.

I, immediately, hit my Facebook because NOW I needed to put a name to the face. I searched her name and…DAMN. I clicked her photo and there sat her pending friend request. I saw it a few weeks back and didn’t respond.  I felt numb. This sister had attempted to be close to me. And then, I remembered her. I had written a blog post about black women being duped into taking the high road and how we needed to implement self-care for ourselves. WE had a dialogue on Val’s Facebook about that post. I interacted with a ton of sisters that day. Even did a radio show from that post. Damn. Now, she’s gone. I accepted the request postmortem and went through her photos. It wasn’t about being inquisitive or nosy but more about extending my hand to a sister who needed sisters to love her. No matter the location. She was beautiful. And yes, I saw the sadness in her eyes.

I attempted to comfort my friend. I was extremely familiar with her pain. My cousin, Dejuana Sellers, was killed a little over 25 years ago by her boyfriend. She was 4 months pregnant. He drowned her in the bathtub of their home and then set the house on fire. It’s not something that we talk about… But I remember. Val was inconsolable but in that moment, she asked me the most beautiful thing. She asked me could I write about her friend. A woman whom she had never met but somehow was moved enough to call her a friend.

To Lanika,

My faith gives me the understanding to know that you will hear this. You ARE important. You touched people. And you will not be forgotten. Most importantly- YOU ARE LOVED.

Ibae Tonu, Lanika.

We can’t pretend that the people with whom we have built substantial relationships on social media aren’t important to us. Sites like Facebook can be wonderful sources for black folks to find joy and love. It is also a place for us to mourn. I am positive that many of us have forged great friendships with people on Facebook, Snapchat, the Disqus comment section..etc. So why should a person have to separate genuine emotions they may feel for another human being all because a social interaction online isn’t tangible to someone else? Who’s making up these fake ass friendship etiquette rules? We should, absolutely,  celebrate wins, send virtual hugs and comfort one another because life is fucking hard.  Humanity can be virtual because we are all human even if the world sees us as something different. Be grateful and appreciative for the people who look past their 23 inch screens to see your heart. Some people don’t have the luxury of having IRL friends and blood is not synonymous with family.

Keka Araújo

Keka Araújo, a native Detroiter, is a cross between Claire Huxtable, Rosie Pérez and Millie Jackson. Married to an East New Yorker and Mami to the dopest Ethiopian EVER, she is the Editor in Chief of "Negra With Tumbao" and a Staff Writer for "The Urban Twist". Keka has been known to shake what her mama gave her, is the hell and high water, an expert salsera and cussologist and is and forever shall be- unapologetically black.

  • panamajackson

    Sorry folks, there were some minor technical difficulties ’round here with Disqus. Hopefully they should be okay now.

  • L8Comer
  • TeeChantel
  • Lex

    “…and blood is not synonymous with family.” If this aint the gospel right here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • miss t-lee


    • PinkRose

      Learned this one GOOD time, neva going to learn it again.

      • grownandsexy2

        I learned it real early.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      Some of the worst people you’re ever going to deal with in life is blood and some of the greatest people to ever love you aint blood at all.

      • Val

        Say it again, Rewind.

      • blueevey

        My life rn

      • Blueberry01

        Say that again, Re.

      • grownandsexy2

        So much truth here.

    • charisma_supreme

      That’s what’s so special abt friendship. You can choose them for good reason. * insert Willie Hutch or Project Pat “I Choose You”

      • Nik White

        Dap for the Willie Hutch reference!

    • Behbeh!!!

    • Diego Duarte

      The amount of people who people who don’t get this is too d@mn high! Unfortunately for me, in Hispanic culture it’s extremely taboo to estrange yourself from family members.

      • I’m Latina..and I have no problems cutting a bytch off..lol

        • Diego Duarte

          Neither do I, but my family and my countrymen in general do:

          “So you’re saying your dad left you at 5, came back at 12 only to physically, psychologically, and emotionally abuse you, lost your house gambling and left you in the street again, came back once more to sell you into slavery to the Yakuza, but not before kicking you in the nuts, and you no longer wanna talk to him??? Doesn’t matter, he’s still your father.”

          *Also applies to abusive siblings, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins twice removed, and that one dude, living overseas, who was once related to your bloodline*

          Every. D@mn. Time.

          • I, completely, understand … I’m just saying that ain’t my life.. I will smite a mfer then cut them off.

    • “Friends are the family you choose.”

  • Detroit Skater

    i’ll put this comment in it’s proper place now (cut & past b/c well>>easy)….the comment section on your post is closed, but I just wanted to say it was a great post. as an introverted loner who is easily stressed by too many people I treasure and appreciate my interactions with my internet family especially those here at VSB…. #HadMeInMyFeelings

    • Kas

      I have a guy that I have known since college. We hung with the same circle of friends back then and I still consider him a friend though our interaction only occurs when a mutual friend of ours is in town (equates to seeing each other about once every 4 years or so). Now that I have that long azz preamble out of the way . . . He is super uncomfortable around new people, very much a loner. I can member inviting him to a few different events which he always declined. When I finally saw him in person, he explained that he didnt feel comfortable around lots of new people because it was stressful. What blew my mind was that even my invitations were stressful because it made him stress over telling me he didn’t want to attend. People have their own definitions of comfort zones, I’m glad you find this to be one.

      • Detroit Skater

        thank you and i’m glad too!

        *whispers* invitations have caused me to lose sleep… #TheStressAndStruggleIsReal

        • Awwww dito!
          I’m am extrovert so this is blowing my mind!

          • Detroit Skater

            if it’s not family and only then it has to be mandatory (per mama?) my preference is to stay home and send a gift or whatever i have to send not to have to go?

          • MsSula

            Same as you. True and true extrovert. So stories like these blow my mind and make me think.

        • Val

          Just having to make a phone call makes me lose sleep. No kidding.

          • LadyJay?

            Lool!!!! Stop it, Val!

          • grownandsexy2


      • Val

        “…I can member inviting him…”

        Lol I know it’s a typo but it made me laugh.

        Also, I know how your friend feels, for real. I hate being around a large group of people that I don’t know. Hate it.

        • Kas

          I’m not the guy trying to work the room, but as long as I have a couple of friends and alcohol . . .

      • I think nearly everyone who frequents VSB on a daily basis is, by nature, introverted. Damon excels at creating safe places for us black introverts.

    • *thug hug*

      Don’t you feel like this is Cheers? Everybody knows your name. ?

      • Detroit Skater

        *thug hug*

        YES! ???????*in my feelings again with an ugly cry* ? y’all

      • Nik White

        I’m not on FB so my niece was very surprised to see me commenting here (while we were watching tv one evening).

        • I take hiatuses from my personal FB from time to time but I ALWAYS come here!

        • Betty’s Babygirl

          OMG!!! I thought i was the only one not on Book-Face. I’m technologically savvy but just cant’/wont do it.

    • Val

      I’m glad you are a VSS, DS!

      • Detroit Skater

        thanks, val! me too!!!

      • Detroit Skater

        I’m glad you are too! i appreciate your point of view on a lot of subjects discussed.

        • Val

          Thanks. :-)

    • grownandsexy2

      I’m a mixed bag I guess, I was shy growing up but made friends easily. Still somewhat shy at times. I’m happy being invisible. Some consider me a loner and I guess that’s true. I’m happy and comfortable by myself. Maybe too much so sometimes. I can go anywhere and do anything by myself. Still make friends easily. .

  • Kas
    • TheCollinB

      I feel like one day Ima run across you in LA fam. Be prepared to drink.

      • Kas

        Plan on it.

      • NonyaB

        Hmm, I just feel like le @disqus_NauO1vWEEq:disqus prolly the type to never show up for a meetup. Or he’II show up in stealth, stare at errybody thru the window (easy to do since we ain’t know what he look like, anyway), then leave.

        • L8Comer

          Lolol I can see this

          • Kas

            How did I end up with the wack rep?

            • L8Comer


            • L8Comer

              You just seem like you’re shy in real life

              • Kas

                I can be, but not to the point of skipping out on planned meet ups. It takes a certain level of extrovertness (translation outgoing stupidly) to have the gall to try to pick up someone from Prince’s entourage.

                • L8Comer

                  Ohhhhh tell me, tell me!!!

                  • Kas

                    I covered it when I first start posting. I would prefer not to rehash the embarrassment. Short version, giving someone the head nod to come over and talk when you are on the wrong side of the vip rope is never the move, doubly so if she is hanging with Prince.

                    • L8Comer

                      Lolol ???

            • Val


        • TheCollinB

          Kas got a family. As much as he loves them I KNOW there are moments when he’s like “I gotta get out” for a second.

        • Kas

          I don’t make plans I don’t plan on keeping. I reached out to collinb earlier about a reggae thing at the Hollywood bowl. He couldn’t make and I was happy because it pretty weak. I was literally sitting there thinking if I had this guy spend good money for “this” . . .

          • NonyaB

            I’ll take your word for it until a VSB/S confirms meeting you.

  • TeeChantel

    This is a really great post – thanks for writing it. What especially haunts me are the souls that post their distress on Facebook, no one reaches out, and next thing you know they’ve committed suicide. I knew one girl from my high school that did this. Unfortunately, we weren’t friends on Facebook, but I heard from other friends that she constantly posted on FB how she was hurt, in pain, and tired of living in this world. A few weeks later, folks were posting “RIP” on her page. I’m sure there are so many sad stories similar to this one in the world of FB.

    • miss t-lee

      Dayum. :(

    • Wow.

    • PhlyyPhree

      I think about this often.
      I have a friend who committed suicide five years ago. The anniversary of her death was this past MOnday and there were the usual FB tributes and all. Right after I posted something about her, I came across a post from someone else saying how they wished folk wouldn’t use social media to air all their problems and would keep their life off of social media.
      I understand that point of view, but what if these people don’t have any other outlets to release their pain or try to connect with people IRL who can help them? It got me thinking to hnow many times I saw people post statuses about how they “coudln’t deal” or “were over it all” and checking to make sure that all of them were still around.

      • Quirlygirly

        I’m sorry about your friend.

        I know when I hear people say things like that I tend to check in too. Sometime people just need someone to hear them out. Listening is free and you can save someone life.

        • PhlyyPhree

          Thank you.
          I always say that Im here to listen, and I generally am. I mean, life happens and I have my own stuff, but more often than not, if all you need is an ear? I’m not going to turn you away and who knows who you can save just by inserting a few well placed “Mmhmms” and “ok’s”

    • Nik White

      A young man Snapchatted his last day before jumping in the Detroit River about a year or so e.g. this is my last hair cut…my last..). Most of the adults in his life weren’t on it and those watching didn’t put it together.

  • miss t-lee

    I’ve come to realize that folks who aren’t big users of the internet pretty much can’t understand how a friendship can cultivate via social media/blogs etc. Like right now one of my closest friends is someone I’ve never even met in person. We’ve been friends like 20 years now, he’s basically another big brother of mine at this point. We met waaay back in the days of Net Noir.
    I met another homegirl on Nappturality back in the gap. First talking about hair, then celebrity gossip, to hey, if you’re ever around this way I got you. I traveled her way, she traveled this way. Her kids have adopted me as their TeeTee.
    IDK–friendship is friendship no matter how you meet. Been mad instances of folks meeting online as friends, then dating and now they got families. Definitely can’t say that ain’t real.

    Sorry to hear about your friend @NegraWithTumbao. :( Hang in.

    • Thank you, sis! ?

    • *Googles these references*

      • miss t-lee


    • Blueberry01

      “Friendship is friendship no matter how you meet.”


  • TheCollinB

    as a person who has awaken from sleep to check for a response and to reply to a comment I get it. you feel fortunate at times to be able to connect with people you normally would have no way of connecting with.

    A major portion of my growth as a young man was solely due to the Startrak music label comments forum from 2001-2006. The people that I met through that site are some of the closest friends I have to this day. The shyt we did online and sometimes irl are some of my best memories and I wouldn’t opt out of that experience for no kinda dollars.

    • Kas

      Glad to know I’m not the only one reading and commenting at random hours.

      • TheCollinB

        We be out here wild late sometimes

      • Other_guy13

        Clearly you are not lol

        • TheCollinB

          Ionno G. We keep pacific standard time. I’ve replied to Kas at 4am your time.

          • Other_guy13

            I think the latest I stayed up on here was like 2:30-3am….Olympics was a GOOD time lol

            • Val

              “Olympics was a GOOD time”

              For you east coasters I guess it was. But I had to log off every evening otherwise I would have gotten all the results 3 hours before the events where airing here.


              • Other_guy13

                I mean….we still love you Val

    • KNeale

      This is such a cute story. Startrak music label community forum. I love it!!

      • TheCollinB

        You had to be there. If it wasn’t for that website I wouldn’t have a wife. We joke about it and even had the chance to tell Pharrell that if it wasn’t for that n*gga we wouldn’t have a family or our beautiful black babies.

    • STARTRAK! Top down! Chrome spinning? Sorry. I’m a bit of a Pharrell Stan, so I had to go there.

      • TheCollinB

        Fader did an article not too long ago specifically about the forum on that website and the internet culture it created. I’m not gonna humble brag about it but we did some truly legendary shyt with that place.

  • Other_guy13

    @NegraWithTumbao: Great post and so sorry to hear about your friend. But this here….

    “We can’t pretend that the people with whom we have built substantial relationships on social media aren’t important to us. Sites like Facebook can be wonderful sources for black folks to find joy and love. It is also a place for us to mourn. I am positive that many of us have forged great friendships with people on Facebook, Snapchat, the Disqus comment section..etc”

    Man I got so much love for y’all…Gf don’t get it but it’s true that you can build relationships with people you never met. Ever heard of a pen pal??? Same concept folks….we need more places to connect and celebrate our wins and be there for one another when we loose. Anyone who feels different needs to re-evaluate what they call a relationship or a friendship for that matter. You have no cap on how many people can love you and who can do so. Anyway before I get all in my feels…..I love y’all n ish and all my FB fam and IG followers and fans (I got a few) and everyone who got my best interest at heart. Keep up the great work all of you and keep us all in your prayers


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