That does it.
I'm sticking old school. Call me a 20th century relic. But I hold certain truths to be self-evident. No matter what the Internet says.
In the wake of the bizarre Manti Te'o tale, I am reaffirming core principles.
A “friend” – no matter what Facebook says – is someone you have actually met. And like. And have ongoing contact with, preferably face to face. That is especially true for someone you call a “girlfriend” or a “boyfriend.”
I know. What a concept.
I do not know to what extent Te'o, the now-infamous Notre Dame football player, was the victim or the perpetrator of the incredible “imaginary girlfriend” scam.
But even before Lennay Kekua was exposed as a figment of someone's imagination, the pieces to my mind did not fit into any sensible frame. This guy's “girlfriend” was supposedly involved in horrible car crash, and subsequently diagnosed with a fatal illness, yet he never flew to California to see her? Or at least go cyberface to cyberface on Skype? Even before the tall tale exploded, Te'o sounded less like a candidate for the Heisman Trophy than for therapy.
Sorry, but in no way, shape or form does a person whom you have never met qualify, in any sane universe, as your “girlfriend.” It is not a real relationship if the two of you have never locked eyes, held hands or so much as met for coffee. For all you know, your Internet hottie may in fact be a middle-aged, beer-swilling loner. Happy Valentine's Day!
At very least, the Te'o fiasco – to grant him, for argument's sake, any benefit of the doubt – is a reminder that purely online contact should come with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Yes, back in the day people became closer through letters and phone calls. Email and online chats are the 21st century equivalents. But then or now, there is no substitute for up close and personal.
That is true, whether the person in question is a (presumably real) cyberspace “girlfriend” or a Facebook “friend.”
At the encouragement of (real-life) friends, I joined Facebook years ago. Not wanting to be impolite, I for a while “friended” anyone who asked. And was inundated with vacation pictures, random thoughts and party updates of “friends” whom I barely knew.
I don't much bother with Facebook anymore, and maybe that is my loss. But to my mind, a “friend” is someone whom I have met, and like, and regularly see or am in touch with. If she were dying of leukemia, I wouldn't just chat online. I would go to see her. When she died, I would not just send flowers, I would go to the funeral. Out of respect for her memory, I would hesitate to share details of the relationship with a world of strangers, lest anyone think I was milking a tragedy for sympathy.
But hey, maybe that's just me.