So, if Wesley had over 700 (seven hundred!) Facebook “friends”:
But he was still incredibly lonely – so lonely in fact that he took his own life:
What does that tell us about online friendships?
I used to think online friendships were valuable – I even argued here on these very pages that they were just as valuable as real-life friendships. But I have changed my mind. The story of Wesley and his suicide illustrates, as far as I’m concerned, how empty of any real value online social networking can be.
I was an online friend of Wesley. But can you really call it a “friend?” What value did I bring to Wesley? I was completely unaware of his suffering, and when he did reach out for help, I misread what he actually wanted and gave the lamest advice ever.
I expect some of you will disagree, and I would love to hear personal experiences that illustrate how valuable online friendships can be. Wait, I can actually think of one – Dot was invited to Betsy’s house for Thanksgiving – an online friendship that has turned into a very real friendship and such a beautiful act of support.
But in the vast majority of cases, I now think that online friendships are wildly overrated, and that the word “friends,” as used to describe Facebook connections, is being used way too liberally.