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.

  • Great post. I look at my internet friends like pen pals. I may not see you in person but our interest align. This comment section is especially close in comparison to many other blogs.

  • It’s weird how I’ve cultivated so many friendships through social media. I tend to eventually put faces to names, particularly if you’re in the broader Tri-State area, but I’ve developed some close friendships through the comments section here.

    I particularly remember when I first landed here, and I was in a situation where because of my marriage, leaving the house was perilous, and inviting someone over was worse. This site and Facebook gave me a chance to preserve my social life and build fresh ties. Heck, I’ve even used it with my consulting side hustle for information (and shouts out to them). Social Media is truly social, and that I’m grateful for.

    Oh, and shameless plug. If you need your Biotech game set right, not your wig pushed back, check out delevanstreet.com! That’s http://www.delevanstreet.com

  • KNeale

    This has motivated me to want to connect more with people online. Online is one of the only spaces I have to talk about certain things because I can’t find that support with my friends family because of so much stigma and things engrained in us through community. I’m sure my IRL friends could learn but I don’t have the time or energy to explain it and beg them to understand. I find myself reaching out to strangers online to talk about my mom who was abusive. I know there are children who had it worse but its still a big issue for me in my life anyways. But IRL nobody allows me to speak about that because there is so much engrained in our community about beating children, unless its sexual abuse (which people will still deny and/or just never talk about), then people consider it okay. So I have yet to ever find a safe space to talk about this with other black women. But through some social media I see people posting about something thats happened to them or refuting someone else’s ignorant comment and it make me think there’s hope. If people have found those spaces/communities/or even just that person online then they do matter. As a matter of fact, thank god for the internet. Because so and so years ago, people would have never been able to make those connections at times when they needed them.

    • TheCollinB

      Read what you wrote and while I can’t personally relate I’m glad that you were able to find a space that gave you the freedom to talk. Being held captive by feelings you never get a chance to work through will do a number on you psychologically. Love.

    • miss t-lee

      Definitely a good place to find like minded people who relate to certain things. I think that’s the beauty of it. You can always find your people.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      That’s why we are all reaching out. It’s not easy to do it when the people we love in real life but that’s why you can still keep creating your own circle as time goes on.

      We got you.

    • Kas

      Sorry for what you went through growing up and the after effects you are working through currently. For better or worse, the com,ent section is always here you.

    • THIS RIGHT HERE.. LET me know if you need to talk frfr.

      I mean that.

    • NonyaB

      Sorry you had to go through that growing up. Don’t let anyone stifle your voice; you deserve to be heard.

    • I think what you’re talking more about is the writing process, which takes a deep amount of self-awareness and introspection to do authentically.

      Conversation tires me. But, in some way or form, I write everyday.

    • Blueberry01

      Thank you for sharing your comment, KN. I’m glad that you are fighting against (what seems like) cultural indoctrination of silence.

      I’ll also pray for your continual healing and restoration. :HUGS:

  • TheCollinB

    So is it still awkward to exchange numbers with people you’ve met on the Internet to text? Take the “I’m just trying to smash” aspect out and just to have the number of someone you’ve connected with online

    • Other_guy13


    • Hey, I’ve done that. How do you think I’ve done VSB NYC over the years?

      • TheCollinB

        I guess being older, in the infancy of social media it always felt strange to take something you only did on the computer and bring it into your real life felt kinda strange. But now I guess the boundaries we once felt have been erased.

        • There’s also the fact that people don’t really chat up strangers in the street anymore. You don’t have a choice to meet new people these days unless you’re in the right circles.

          • Negro Libre

            Social media has made it easier to make friends and build non-romantic relationships, but it’s also reduced the ability to deal with spontaneity and stress in human interactions with strangers in reality.

            I began to realize this recently with the Colin Kaepernick back and forth, and how people kept talking about “rights” when in reality, rights were never at risk on either side. People were so passionate, that they felt that obstacles or challenges to their passion (whether real or imagined) were the equivalent of forceful actions.

            It also seems that social media blurs the line between actions and words, and this affects political discourse as well as increases the desire for introversion, including how we view and argue about things having to do with free speech: many of the heated arguments and debates online about free speech, really have nothing to do with free speech.

            • miss t-lee

              “Social media has made it easier to make friends and build non-romantic relationships, but it’s also reduced the ability to deal with spontaneity and stress in human interactions with strangers in reality.”


            • I wouldn’t blame that completely on social media though. That trend was already going on even in the 90s with restrictions as to where young people could socialize. Social Media blew up in part as a way to work around complaints people had about different groups socializing in public, and the various police responses that resulted.

              • Negro Libre

                Wait, can you expand on this? For most of the 90’s I was growing up in Nigeria. I always view technological advances as more efficient upgrades to the zeitgeists of the time, than “disruptions.” I think a lot of what went on in the 1990’s is responsible for the technology and attitudes that millennials have today.

                • In the 90s, there were constant crackdowns on any grouping of like three or more people under 25 meeting in public places. I’m exaggerating, but not by much. There were some crimes, particularly pickpockets, going on, but a lot of it was simply the older generation not checking for the kids hanging out. A lot of places went so far as to establish curfews for people under 18. Teens and young adults were constantly under pressure as to hang out locations. As a result, chat rooms blew up among the young simply for the lack of other options. After all, they were just sitting in the family room or bedroom, not in the local mall food court.

          • TheCollinB

            Facts. The only opportunity I get to really interact with new adults is through my own kids. Parents connecting with parents type stuff. On the rare occasion you meet like minded parents and you don’t have the pressure of finding a way to hang out. Just shoot to each other’s house. Buy the kids some pizza, let them run around and the adults go vibe.

            • Cleojonz

              My husband is a swim coach and our kids are on his team. The vast majority of our socializing comes from parents of kids on the team. It’s a good little bunch. The kids like each other and we fortunately we like the parents. Like you said it makes it easier to get together because you just grab the kids and come over.

              • TheCollinB

                This is our life. We became the rebel parents in one family group setting because we brought ??? to the Beyonce concert we all went to. Everyone was was initially like “whaaaaa?” but by the end of Formation that J was in rotation.

                • Kas

                  Good ole Jay Z. I bet he was on fire that night.

                  • TheCollinB

                    His wife was. I know that truth to be self evident

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      No. I do it all the time. I hate using multiple apps & email to speak to people.

      Even if we won’t meet, you on the same level as everybody else when it comes to my phone if I decided to speak to you consistently.

    • Naw. I have plenty of numbers from people I may never meet because they live all around the world.

    • Cleojonz

      Not at all. I have two guys that I still speak to via text from the early days of yahoo groups. They are really just good homeboys, never tried to smash. Sometimes you just connect in a certain way.

      • miss t-lee

        Yup. This is how me and my friend met. It’s never been anything else but friendship.

      • TheCollinB

        And that’s cool. the Internet is a ground zero place for inviting other people to try your genitals. To not have to worry about that and just make a solid connection is dope

  • Your last name is awesome.

    This was a really poignant post. As someone who regularly moves about every 3 years, most of my friends have been people online. If it wasn’t for the internet I’m pretty sure I’d be dead. So people who think the internet isn’t real are strange to me

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      You don’t have permission to leave NY sir.

    • Thank you, sir!!

      I have my buffs from childhood but most ppl I’m close to now are from online.

      I’m not ashamed.

    • KNeale

      I’ve moved a lot to. I don’t have a lot of online friends I have a small group of friends inconveniently scattered around the country. So having an online community is great for thse everyday things that just make you laugh cuz when you get on the phone with your long distance friends and family its catch ups and major life events and things.

  • Cleojonz

    It’s Negra! This was beautiful. You know I pop by your blog on occasion. I think we have some internet folks in common.

    I can totally relate to this post. When I was feeling disconnected from folks in my real life it was my internet friends that got me through. I met a group of women on one of the mommy boards. We were/are all working moms that had a baby due in Nov. 05. I still speak to these women and interact with at least one of them daily either whether it be FB, insta or twitter.

    I have another really good internet friend, met her in a group on yahoo have never met her in person but I spoke to her on the phone a few weeks ago because I was feeling so heavy with all that’s been going on with police brutality and BLM. Her family makeup is similar to mine and I just needed her perspective and I was glad to have her as a part of my life even if this is the way we interact. If I ever have an opportunity to see her in person I will, but even though I haven’t our relationship is still very valuable to me.

    • I know you do, sis and I love you for it.. You and Val.. Mary Burrell, Soul Industry.. and a few other VSS..I’m forgetting right now.. charge it to my head and not my heart.. I feel like yap get me through the heaviness I feel. I wanna fight everyday and it’s becoming harder and harder to suppress.

      • Cleojonz

        You are fortunate in that you have the outlet to express yourself the way you do. It seems to just flow out of you. A true gift.

        • Wow.. I’m so humbled by that!! Thank you!!+

        • Quirlygirly

          Yes it is a gift. The way my mind and emotions are set up. I can’t express myself in the manner.

  • PinkRose

    Great post! I’ve got a some VERY special friends from being online. Then there are those very few folks who I NEVER want to meet because infidelity is NOT a good look, lol!!!

    • TheCollinB

      That’s real. But also a main reason people dive into their online life so heavy. That ability to FEEL the warmth of other Suns without risking messing up their home life.

    • Giiiirl!!

    • Other_guy13

      You said a word right there lol See how that VSB cookout went bye bye

      • MsSula

        The mythical unicorn that is the VSB Cookout will never happen.

        Too many potential breakings of happy homes. LOL

        • L8Comer

          Really? I thought we were all platonic zone, except for me and *redacted* but he’s single anyway… I think so anyway Lol

        • PinkRose

          The chemistry on the net is real………………

        • NonyaB

          Yeepa! Mizz Sula!!! Never took you for a sh*t stirrer. *Howls in the key of amebo* ?

          • MsSula

            Oh no! Not stirring anything… just stating facts. Lolll.

            • NonyaB

              That said, nothing like IRL meeting to wash it all off because clicking online ? offline attraction (assuming both sides only seen avatars, not pics/video).

    • Kas
      • PinkRose

        Kas, Kas, Kas………………….

  • kingpinenut

    VSB has been *the black oasis* in a whitewashed world. I hope y’all folks are real in some kinda way – I know I am.

    If you ain’t real in the da flesh y’all *are* real to me!

  • PinkRose

    I could do without Facebook though. Between the constant hacking, the old school players trying to get their smash on, and overall fakeness of most of the posts I see/read, it’s not a necessity for me.

    • kingpinenut

      I like facebook cause it’s like looking in folks livinrooms….

      They stay #A SSEDOUT

    • Epsilonicus

      Maybe you should change who you follow. I’m not being sarcastic

      • PinkRose

        I don’t think that’s it. People in my generation (generation X) just seem to like to brag about ‘ish ALL the time.

        • Kas

          I have moved a few of my friends and family so their posts don’t pop up I’m my thread but I can view if I wish.

      • Cleojonz

        I agree with Eps. I feel like people that have to make that many dramatic declarations are just using it wrong. I have had to unfollow a whole lot of folks behind this. It’s unfortunately not generational.

      • PinkRose

        Plus, it’s kinda hard to unfollowed family ’cause family events/reunions….

        • MsSula

          They don’t know you have unfollowed them. They are still your friends but you don’t see all their useless ramblings. Win-Win.

          • Kas


          • PinkRose

            See, I’m on there so little that I didn’t get WTH ya’ll was talking about at first.

            That said, the only person whose posts I see are my kid’s.

          • Val

            But somehow they do seem to know when they are unfollowed. Lol I don’t know how exactly though.

    • grownandsexy2

      LOL @ “old school players”

    • Kas

      Sounds like you need to thin your friends down some.

      • PinkRose

        I’m pretty good with letting people be who they are plus, I’m on there maybe 1/week if that.

    • Val

      I pretty much use spybook as a news aggregator at this point. I’ve unfollowed all of the people that post annoying memes and who post way too much. And, there are a couple of groups I really like.

      • PinkRose

        LOL @ spybook!

  • Thanks for this… My parents do not understand this, but they’re of another generation. I love each & everyone of you guys. Even when some of y’all go MIA, I worry and then relieved when y’all show your face. VSB has definitely given me the space to talk about issues that I necessarily couldn’t talk about with anyone else. By no means am I an introvert, but each and everyone of you provided inspiration.

    Negra, powerful piece and love & light to you. Sending hugs https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/f2d383b493e85090e607a314d24c73743cc8118c55724131233f7b56808ac042.gif

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