Be a Friend Not a Contact

Reaching out by Vivian_81 on Flickr

by Karl Tatgenhorst on June 24, 2010

Recently I passed up on an opportunity to be a friend to someone on my Facebook site. That someone later did something very drastic, would it have mattered if I had reached out to him? I don’t know, I can tell you it would have mattered to me.

I was reading Facebook, as I always do, and I noticed a friend posting for legal advice about a sudden divorce. I thought how odd that he asked that as soon as it was going on, most might say “I might be getting a divorce” but not solicit legal advice.
“I should ask him if everything is OK” thought I. Then I thought about how I didn’t know him that well etc…. No!! If you see something in your stream that strikes you as a possible cry for help, speak up! You might not be their bestest bud, you might not have ever met the person, but you may end up being the only candle in a very dark moment for that person. I can’t tell you how to be a friend, but I can tell you that you should. When these people agreed to join your community they had some thought that you offered a value to them. Let that thought empower you to speak up to ANYONE on your list. When you do that, you meet and exceed their expectation for “liking” your site or “following” your tweets.

“I’m lonely” – why?
“I’m sad” – want to talk?
Those little exchanges could mean the difference between being a mourning contact and being a hope. Now, I’m bothered by the fact that I said nothing… What could I have said? Could it have mattered? I really don’t know, but I do know that I need to be a friend to my community and not just another content firehose.
What resources could you recommend?  Have you been in similar situations? What might you say?
R.I.P. Mike

About the author

Karl Tatgenhorst wrote 31 articles on this blog.

  • Glinda Harrison

    Karl this was so touching and sad to me. Suicide always has the effect of leaving those left behind asking, “Could I have done something to prevent this?” Sometimes, the signs are only apparent in retrospect and you can’t beat yourself up over that.

    The deeper point your post brings up raises many questions: Can we use social media for more than just casual contacts,conversation and networking? Can we spot, in people we don’t really know very well, real signs of distress? Can we tell the difference between someone posting to be funny or dramatic and someone sincerely reaching out?

    I think we can form meaningful relationships online by doing exactly as you suggest: by reaching out, by offering to talk or be a sounding board. I think the most important thing is to remember that these are real people we are interacting with. Sometimes, one small act of kindness can make all the difference.

  • Michelle Hillaert

    That is such a beautiful post… and a reminder that we do need to reach out to others… get past that comfort zone that we often place ourselves in. Thank you for sharing this with me… it’s such a good reminder of what being a friend really entails. I’ll keep your friend’s family in my prayers.

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  • admin

    Thanks Michelle, we do need to reach out now and again.

  • admin

    Glinda, thanks for your feedback here and on twitter.

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