The Ultimate Guide to Online Friendship

Today I want to talk to you about online friends. When you think about it, this is quite extraordinary.

You interact, and possibly share your photo with people who you have never met and may never meet.

We have ventured into a world that we have no rules for. What are the boundaries for online friendships? Are there protocols to follow? And the most basic question, what’s the bare minimum of time you need to invest in these friendships?

To answer these burning questions, we first need to define the online friendship.

I think we can all agree that Facebook is to blame for all this confusion. I remember watching “NCIS: Los Angeles” when Eric Beale, one of the computer geeks, was asked, “Does Karen have a last name?” He replied, “Can’t remember.”

“You can’t remember?”

“No. But God bless her, she has put me over the top. I now have over 1000 Facebook friends.”

Warning! If you have 1000 Facebook friends and you don’t know their names, please seek treatment immediately.

When you signed up for Facebook, you probably started with actual friends, old schoolmates or good acquaintances. If you wanted to keep your life private you chose the appropriate settings. Most of the people on my Facebook I would consider lunch-worthy, meaning that if I saw them in person, I’d ask them to lunch. I may even send them a Christmas card.

Facebook friends work pretty much like everyday offline friends. You can unfriend someone which is similar to having the “I’m never going to talk to you ever again,” fight. Or, you can hide someone which is the nice way of unfriending. Then your friend doesn’t know you’ve snubbed her. You can both save face, and feel free to say hi in the grocery store and maybe chat about how you both hate creamed corn.

I also found myself adding friends on Facebook that I didn’t know. This was a big step for me because I’m a private person. But I really needed Farmville neighbors and friends of my friends were playing so the common friend introduced us. I made the sacrifice. This was going to be a use and be used friendship. No need to invest any time in this friendship. The only thing I was sacrificing was my privacy. My desire to make a bigger farm won out over remaining private.

I’ve since quit playing Farmville and have only unfriended one person from my gang of five. I can’t seem to sever the ties with the others. We built up a camaraderie playing Farmville, and I feel it’s unkind to unfriend them. Mute yes, unfriend, no.

For the past year, I’ve been playing Forge of Empires where interaction between players is required. In all my years of gaming, I’ve never played this type of game. Fortunately, players can remain anonymous as long as they choose a good avatar name like Pith Lord Sexypants or Lord Skunklicker and talk only about the game. I did have one person open up and tell me where she lives and that she was a grandmother, which surprised me. That was too much information in this dangerous world of stalkers and perverts. But she seemed legit. I ended up helping her find her online photographs that she thought she lost when she bought a new phone. And I friended her in the game.

What about sharing your personal life?

Other players are more open about their personal lives. Some will share where they’re going on vacation or that they have to take care of their 80 year dad. Usually they offer this information because they will be offline and not able to play which most guilds require or you’ll be booted. Life can be cruel in the gaming world. It’s a good thing the gaming world rules don’t apply to spouses.

I can safely say that all of these online friends will only remain fellow gamers judging by their lack of spelling. Call me old school, but just because this is a game, doesn’t mean you have to show your stupidity and laziness. Some players write like they’re texting. I was a latecomer to texting and still don’t use the shortcuts, probably because I don’t know text speak. If I have trouble understanding what you are saying, then you haven’t held up your half of the line of communication bargain. Delete with no regrets.

Another set of online friends may include your co-workers. When I got married almost five years ago, my commute to work would have almost doubled because I had to move. My company said I could work from home but I had to work the late shift until 8 pm. Hello home office, goodbye corporate cubicle. I did cartwheels and thanked my supervisor as I headed out the door, computer and monitor in tow.

Since that time many people have come and gone in my department, and there are only two left who I’ve talked to face to face. Everyone else is a name with an email and sometimes a fuzzy, poorly lit photo uploaded in Skype that won’t help you identify this person if you had to pick her out of a lineup. This is my work world. I’m sure this sounds familiar to many of you as more and more of us work from home.

After reading emails and hearing a voice over the phone, we create a person in our mind. If you’re a naturally noisy person, you’ll strike up an IM (instant message) with someone you want to get to know. You may get the chance to talk to your fellow employees directly or in a meeting. It is through these interactions that you base your opinion of whether or not you like the person and how much you want to share your personal life. Not really much to go on, is it?

If I determine the person works hard, and can join sentences with a period instead of a comma, I’ll try to develop that online friendship. I find the last caveat weeds out many and saves me a lot of time. Each of us has to figure out our own criteria.

When do you know if your online co-worker can turn into an online friend? The key question to ask is would you invite her to your Facebook world? If not, then chances are you’ll remain online co-workers. But that’s okay. You can still have lunch like co-workers do.

Who’s up for lunch?

Speaking of lunch, this is a perfect test to see if you want to pursue a friendship, so if you have an opportunity to break bread, take it. You can tell a lot about a person by going to lunch. If they are courteous to the wait staff, then it’s safe to assume that they’re considerate to others. Do they eat with their mouth closed, or do they make annoying smacking sounds that deserve a dagger-filled glare and a smack upside the head? If it’s the former, then they are probably conscientious and follow good habits. Finally, do they leave a 15 or 20% tip? If not, you know the person is cheap, cheap, cheap, a gigantic red flag in my book. Failure to pass these tests will probably move them to the “come up with good excuse to not meet again” group.

Finally, I have a group that fits THE definition of online friends. These are people I’ve never met in person, but would love to. I interact with them on a regular basis. They are the wonderful group of writers at Two Drops of Ink. We know each other by our writing and our comments. I’ve come to know the editors and feel comfortable sending them an email anytime I have a question. They have welcomed me into their world, and I feel fortunate to call them friends.

If you blog or interact in small groups online you may find yourself developing the same kinds of friendships. These are great to have, but don’t let them take the place of your real friends.

Many years ago I decided I wanted to try camping, but I wanted to go alone. It was at a time in my life when I was unhappy and trying to figure out what would make me happy. I left my husband and kids for a few days, borrowed some camping supplies and headed to a nearby campground. I spent many hours reading, walking and journaling. At night I made a campfire and pondered my life while staring into the flames.

It only took me a few days to realize that I had become touch deprived. I realized that I needed human interaction: hugs from my children, a pat on the back from my friend or holding hands with a loved one.

Having online friends is entertaining and fun, but they can’t take the place of real human interaction. As with all things in my life, moderation is key. I don’t plan on going to a crowded event where they have to check my purse before I get through the door nor do I want to be alone for any length of time, unless it’s in my house with my computer and cat by my side helping me put words down on paper. I do have my exceptions. It’s okay to have your online friends, but you need to go out to lunch now and then.

What You Don’t Know About Gold

Sometimes the writing gods throw your next subject in your face, and you don’t realize it. I was reading a passage in the Bible about the building of Solomon’s temple.

“He overlaid the inside with pure gold, and he also overlaid the altar of cedar.

Gold. It never dawned on me how long we have revered gold. This metal was precious in biblical times, and today we still admire its value. I might have to do a little research on this. I’m curious.

The research started shaping up. I think this is interesting and something my loyal readers would find interesting too.

The next day I received my “This Day in History” email and lo and behold on Aug. 16 in 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon. That was definitely a push to travel this path.

What sealed the deal? The Italian Job came up on my television when I turned it on. If you don’t know the movie it’s about stealing gold. The writing gods don’t have to hit me over the head a fourth time. I was supposed to write about gold.

The wonderful thing about the internet is that it makes any writer’s research easier.

But that convenience comes with a downside. You have to sift through all the information, evaluate your sources and make the best judgment you can.

Most of this information comes from websites selling gold. I also use the Encylopaedia Britannica website. Most of the same information was found on more than one website so I feel confident that it’s accurate. If anyone has objections, feel free to let me know, and I’ll take it under advisement. I’ll then have my lawyers call your lawyers.

Fun Facts About Gold

1. Evidence of gold use dates back to Ancient Egypt. The capstones on the Pyramids of Giza are made of solid gold.

2. Gold is the oldest precious metal. The lure of gold can be attributed to its beauty, its scarcity and its malleable property making it easy to use for adornment.

3. Gold is one of the heaviest metals. The volume is 19 times heavier than water. One cubic foot of gold weights 1206 pounds.

4. Ancient Greeks regarded gold as a status symbol.

5. A gold brick weighs about 27 lbs.

6. Gold is considered a noble metal, so it doesn’t oxidize under normal conditions

7. Pure gold is soft, about the hardness of a penny.

8. The proportion of gold is measured in karats, 24 karats being the purest form. 14 karat gold has 14 parts gold to 10 parts of metal creating the gold alloy.

9. The largest gold mine in the United States is the Homestate mine in Lead, South Dakota which is opened 1876.

10. In 1792 the United States passed the Mint and Coinage Act placing our country on a bi-metallic, silver-gold standard. This remained in one form or another until 1976.

11. George Harrison from South Africa discovered gold in his backyard in 1868. That discovery changed South Africa forever. It is now the highest producer of gold in the world.

12. By 550 BC the Greeks were mining for gold throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East regions.

13. It is rarer to find a one ounce gold nugget than a five carat diamond.

I hope these facts will pique your interest enough to do some reading on your own. The history of gold is more interesting than I though it would be. Many thanks to the writing gods for their subtle suggestions.


Why You Should Use Flipboard As Soon As Possible

If you haven’t heard of Flipboard, get yourself a cup of coffee, sit down in a comfortable chair and keep reading. I’m about to make your life simpler. Thanks to Scott Biddulph over at Two Drops of Ink, I took his advice and checked out Flipboard. I have fallen in love with this app, and I know you will too.

Flipboard provides a free format for reading and collecting information. Think of this as a Pinterest for magazine articles. Instead of creating boards, you create magazines.

The app was originally created for mobile readers, but now there is a desktop version. In 2015 there were 34,000 topics and 21 million magazines; I can’t imagine what the statistics are now. If you can’t find something you like, you’re not trying hard enough.

Imagine a newspaper or magazine delivered to your door that was custom written for you. You no longer have to browse through every page looking for the articles that piques your interest. Now everything is interesting, and you don’t have to feel taken because you forked out $5 for a magazine stuffed with those annoying stuffers.

First step is to sign up for Flipboard. Then let the fun begin. You get to tell Flipboard what you want to read.

Up in the right hand corner, click on the button that says “What’s your passion?” Scroll through the list and find the main topics that interest you. Many of these will have subtopics. I love American history, so I clicked on the topic. Under it were over 25 subtopics providing an opportunity to narrow my passion.

If you’re interested in something that is not listed, go up to the magnifying glass and type it in to see what’s available. Choosing a passion signals Flipboard to automatically create a magazine.

When you start choosing your list of passions, resist the urge to go crazy. I’ve created thirteen so far and receive more than enough articles delivered to me. Think of the Smart Magazines as individual magazines divided up by genre. If you’re into cooking, you’ll get all the cooking magazines dumped into your smart magazine. You’re probably not going to read every article. I’m already thinking of deleting a few because of over information overload.

Besides topics, you can also search for specific people or publications you would like to follow. Make sure you choose the real deal, though. Some people might title a magazine the name of the publication or person you happen to be looking for.

You can stop here and let Flipboard do all the work going on your merry way reading and discarding. But I doubt you’ll be happy stopping here. There will be articles, videos, and pictures that you’ll want to save. Now you’ll need a magazine or two, or ten to organize your gems. I don’t know if there is a limit, but if there is, I doubt you’ll reach it.

I currently have eight magazines. Among the eight I created three magazines to coincide with my website: Simple, Smart, and Sassy. Here is where I put my blog posts. I can also collect other articles that have subject matter similar to mine and put them into these magazines. Besides these three magazines, I also created magazines on topics that I would collect and store.

Think of this as your own magazine rack. For example, when I find an article on writing, I’ll save it to my “Writing Well” magazine. This magazine also includes my articles from Two Drops of Ink. Flipboard allows for self-promotion, so take advantage of it.

I would recommend a magazine to collect articles that you may not have time to read right away. I call mine “Read Later.” Brilliant, I know.

There is also a profile section if you want to share some background information. Since I use Flipboard as another social media outlet for my website, I completed the profile to coincide with my writing website.

Remember, the magazines you create will only have the articles you put into them. The Smart Magazines have information that changes based on your interactions and interests. Flipboard users will only see the magazines you create.

You can also decide to make a magazine private or public. Click on the magazine and look in the lower right corner for the edit button. Click and you’ll come to this page.

Under settings you’ll have the option to set your privacy. I have a few magazines that don’t coincide with my website, so I keep these private. If one of my friends wants to see one of these private magazines, I can add her to the share list.

If you enjoyed an article, like it by clicking the heart. This tells Flipboard that you want to read more articles like that one. You can also comment if you so desire. These are strictly Flipboard comments which means only fellow Flipboard users will see them.

If you find that you’re receiving too much information, or the information you’re receiving you don’t like, delete the magazine. This is easy to do once you figure out how, so pay attention so you don’t waste as much time as I did.

Click on the magazine that you want to delete. You’ll see three dots after the title.

Click on the dots. You’ll see three options:

  1. Delete from home
  2. Personalize, or
  3. Delete. Clicking “delete” will remove the magazine completely.

As you become an active Flipboard user, you’ll see articles in your daily feed that come from sources you don’t like or trust. You can tell Flipboard to mute the source. I couldn’t find this option on the computer version, so do it on your phone. In the bottom right corner will be three dots. Click on the dots and find “mute” in the listing.

What happens if you find an article or blog that you want to flip but you’re not reading it in Flipboard? I have an answer, and it’s simple. Find the Flipboard extension and add it to your Google Chrome.

  1. Open a Chrome browser.
  2. Click on the three dots in the upper right corner of the tool bar.
  3. Scroll to More tools.
  4. Click on Extensions
  5. Click on Get more extensions.
  6. In the search window, type in +Flip it
  7. Click on the blue box where it says Add to Chrome.
  8. You’ll see the icon in your toolbar. Make sure that you enable the extension.

When you want to save your article to one of your magazines, click on the F icon. Choose which magazine to put it in, and you’re done.

I’ve covered the basics that will get you started on your information junkie journey. We are surrounded and inundated with information on a daily basis, and here is a simple tool to help you harness that information and only receive what you want to. Flipboard is your filter and your siphon for the information overload we encounter every day.

I encourage you to check out my magazines and if you see something you like, follow the magazine. Or, if you find me extraordinary or exceptionally interesting, feel free to follow all of me. I promise not to think you’re a stalker.

Let me know how you like Flipboard and how you plan to use it. If you have a question or problem, let me know. I’ll try to help.

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