One of the cool things about the Internet is that it allows us to connect with so many people that otherwise we would not have known. We learn new ideas, see new perspectives, and are introduced to new personalities that we would never have encountered otherwise. There is now a Facebook group, Twitter feed, or message board for any and every interest and type of person. Without much trouble, we can all connect online with people who share our worldview and our values. Personally, I love interacting with people on social media to discuss ideas. In fact, if we haven’t connected on Twitter and/or Facebook, let’s change that. These sites are fantastic places to initiate relationships. But the poison is in often in the dose.
Because it’s so easy and convenient to connect online, it’s tempting to use these internet friendships as our sole source or primary source of friendship and to use these groups as our “tribe”. Simply put, this is a mistake. We need face-to-face, person-to-person interaction. Reading words on a computer screen or a tablet or phone will never suffice for being in the presence of other people. You cannot feel the depth of a person through a computer screen. You cannot sense their sincerity or the weight of their personality, being, and humanity through the computer screen.
And that gives us insight as to why it’s so appealing to have Internet friendships. With online friends, you are in control, always. You are able to filter the information that is presented. You get to put your best foot forward, so to speak. Any failures that get shared are shared at your discretion. There’s a lot of truth in the meme that says “I hope your life is as good as you make it look on Facebook”. Or Twitter. Or Instagram. Or that message board. Online friendships allow us to create a persona, an identity that we present. That persona usually isn’t dishonest or fraudulent, but it is rarely complete. And what gets left out are often the blemishes. As a result, those who only know you online don’t really know you.
With online friends, you can walk away at a moment’s notice. You can only contribute when you feel like it. When the going gets tough, you can bolt. There’s no commitment. There’s no obligation. You don’t have to help anyone move, lend anyone money, or listen to anyone’s problems. You don’t have to see nose hairs, pimples, or sweat. You can just look at their chosen profile picture. Probably most importantly, you don’t have to look anyone in the eye when you let them down or when you fail.
That’s not the case with men who truly know you and your family, men who get to observe your life first hand. They see the successes and failures up close and personal. When you have friends who are woven into the fabric of your life, you don’t get the option to hide. Because those guys not only know you, they know your wife and they know your kids. You can talk all day about leading, loving, and being a rock for your wife. Good friends know whether this is bullshit. Internet friends don’t. You can write 1,000 blog posts about how to raise kids or post 1,000 pics of your smiling kids on social media and still be a shitty father. Your friends will know the truth. Your online friends won’t.
So do not fool yourself into thinking that you have a band of brothers because you’re plugged into an Internet community. While you might’ve shared your thoughts with those men on the Internet, they do not know your life. While you might’ve shared more intimate details about your life with those men than with any other person in the world, those men still do not know your life. What they know is what you’ve told them. And you are biased. As a result, they have only heard one side of the story and it came from a biased source: you. Which means that they cannot accurately and impartially judge your life.
We need person-to-person interactions with other men. We need men who are around us, around our wives or girlfriends, and around our children. We need men who observe our interactions with their families. We need men with whom we can celebrate our successes and who we’re going to have to look in the eyes when we fail. We need to be known in that way. Because only in being known in that way can we truly be judged accurately. And without being judged accurately by other men who know us, there can be no honor. So, as you build your band of brothers, your tribe, do it with men who are close by. There’s nothing wrong with Internet friendships. They can be a source of strength and encouragement and instruction. However, they are not sufficient for reaching your potential as a man. They cannot give you honor. They can supplement your friendships. They cannot replace them. Walk wisely. Join with other men nearby. For not only do you need them, they need you. This is the man’s life.
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