Mud and the Art of Making “Friends” on FB

So, it goes without saying… I have always struggled with making friends. I never know what to say. I never know what the cool kids are doing. I have no idea about current fashion. I am seriously socially awkward. I am loud, forgetful, and at times judgmental.

I had been on FB for a while, and it was interesting… I guess. The only thing it was really good for was seeing what other people were doing (pregnant, married, engaged, divorced, and graduated- oh, and throw in a few “I am so drunks.”) I had no idea how groups worked and frankly, it was pretty boring. I had lots of “friends,” (mostly people from my past) and I got to see what they were posting. The one good thing FB gave me was suggestions for pages I might like. I got to see blogs other people were reading. This is how I accidentally joined the Health Club group I am part of.

Remember, I knew nothing about FB groups… so, I vaguely wondered why there were all these videos and pictures of sweaty people doing push- ups in my news feed. I did not really pursue it until one day, a video caught my attention and I clicked on it. This opened the page. I scrolled through the posts so confused. What was a PWS and NSV? Eventually, I started commenting on other’s posts and then one day I posted something. And people commented. I responded. A conversation ensued. It was gradual at first. I did not really invest any time in it. Eventually, I started to recognize people and would comment on their posts. Then, they would invariably comment on mine. We had become “friends.” These new friends were sharing their struggles and victories with trying to be healthy and eat well. So, last April I joined the gym.

Meeting these friends at the Mudder is one of the most exciting parts. They have watched me go from complete couch potato to someone who actually works out. (Except for when I am boycotting and pouting because it hurts that day.) I do not actually have any friends who weighed as much as I did. I certainly did not have anyone who had started working out at that weight. I needed someone who could relate to the idea of a girl who has never been athletic trying to morph into an athlete. In her mid 30s no less. I learned things about macros and shoes. FitBit vs Garmin vs Polar. Cardio vs strength training. I saw people sharing their progress pics. Transformation Tuesday. Flex Friday. Muscle Monday. I took pictures of my almost visible triceps. I competed in challenges between the members. I looked forward to posting my picture and a description of that I had accomplished that day. 

Over time we would gradually become real FB “friends”. Not everyone but, the ones I related to or found inspiring or funny. I have had the good fortune to meet some women who have so many special talents, and a unique outlook on the world. They have been so supportive and kind. Sometimes, someone will message me and tell me they signed up for a boxing class because they saw me posting about it. This whole fitty adventure has been enriched by this group of people. It is way more fun. Besides, it took me a long time to get brave enough to workout with my superstar friends. (I would have never been able to keep up at all in the beginning.)

FB is a great way to practice “talking” to people. One of the big risk, just like with our obsession with texting, is the inability to pick up vocal and body language cues. This increases the risk for misunderstandings. I tend to think (and speak) in a borderline obnoxious tone. Sarcasm is one of my favorite tools. I find delight in irony (especially irony and inside jokes that can be shared between people). This is a dangerous tone to use in written communication. So, I find myself explaining what I actually meant however, by that point… the damage has been done. I have been very fortunate. A few of these people have somehow infiltrated my real life. I talk to them on the phone. I make vague plans to someday come visit them if I am ever incidentally in that part of the country. I share some of my personal struggles and consider their view-point and see if they have any personal experience with the situation. We share tidbits and information about our real lives. So, FB friends can morph into real friends. 

Now, to define the word friend is hard. These people on FB are not my friend in the way that my best friend is my friend. They are not a friend in the way WM or SD are my friends. Those are close friends, or actually, they are people who I feel are basically part of my family. These FB people offer fun or interesting conversation. I would not call them to come bail me out of jail. I would not give them my home address and let them have a spare key to my house. They are FB friends.

I think that it is human nature to seek a connection with other people. We are social beings. We live in a community. Turns out, a community can be formed on FB. However, just like in real life, it requires effort. I have to be reactive and engaged. These are conversations, and I have learned a lot about forging interpersonal relationships with people in the real world by fostering and nurturing relationships on FB.

There is a real danger for folks who invest more time in their virtual relationships than their “real” ones. FB friends do not replace real friends. However, if you are lucky, the FB relationships can grow into significant real relationships. I can use the communication skills I learned to get out in the real world and foster some new relationships. Making friends is hard! One of the ways to make friends is to find a common interest and to share that part of my life. I do not have to share my entire being with everyone I meet. It is okay to keep my life somewhat compartmentalized.That being said, I still have to invest something in the relationship. I have to be willing to put myself out there. I have to pay attention to what is going on. Play a game. Post a picture. Develop inside jokes. Create memories that can be referenced. It is impossible to forge new relationships if I hold everyone at arm’s length.

I am so excited that I have made these new friends on FB. In a couple of months they will no longer be FB friends. I will be able to say with pride that I embarked on a crazy, muddy adventure with them. I am pretty sure that I will leave Mesa with a slew of new friends and the confidence to continue this crazy quest I am on.


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