Summer mornings on the shore of Lake Michigan.
An expanse of sand. Beach towels stretched out side by side.
Plastic buckets, shovels, and sieves.
The lifeguard: white boat, brown oars, orange jacket. She faces the beach.
We face the water and the rising sun, our back to the city behind us.
We watch the children: one of mine is in the water with her friend: splashing while she ventures out deeper and deeper; one is sitting in the sand at the water’s edge, digging a trench; my little one is on my hip, sticky arms wrapped around my neck, head drowsing on my shoulder.
Depending on the day (and the hour) there are four, five or even six or seven moms and our brood of children — as many as 20 kids under ten.
Mostly, this is our stretch of beach. On these summer mornings, we rarely see anyone outside our group here.
The kids can roam, dig, and dance. They can build and splash.
And we can talk.
With interruptions, of course. Always.
We’re used to it, though. We can turn away from a conversation to pull a snack from our beach bag, mediate a tussle between siblings, and return to the conversation easily.
These perfect beach mornings, they fuel our friendships. They never seem long enough.
As we gather toys and towels, we walk slowly back to the city. We part with a promise to gather again soon.
I lived in Chicago nearly nine years. I’ve lived in my new home for only about a year.
I am making friends here, slowly.
The difference: most of my years in Chicago, I stayed home with my girls. We had time for beach days and park meet-ups, day-long trips to museums and spontaneous backyard bashes. We even turned trips to Sam’s Club for groceries into celebrations: meeting friends for pizza slices then shopping together.
Now, I spend the time when my girls are at school working.
Building face to face friendships, once my nearly full-time occupation, is (honestly) far down on my list now.
The friendships I invest most of my time in these days are virtual ones: the connections I’ve created and cultivated mostly online.
Is this a natural shift, inevitable?
Or could (should) I structure my time to include much more face to face time with friends?
Is it possible to maintain a vital community of online friends AND to spend regular time with friends face to face?
What is the online equivalent to a perfect morning at the beach?
Tell me something! What friendships are you investing your time in? How do you balance online friendships and in-person ones?
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
Oh, Becky! I love this post! You are such a beautiful writer, and you really created some beautiful imagery of Lake Michigan.
True, there is something very valuable about face-to-face friendships. I don’t think either one of us would argue that point. A physical hug can do a lot for your day!
That said, a virtual hug can too. I know. I’ve been both the giver and receiver of these…and it’s brightened my day from both sides!
My online community, as is the case with you, is well….community! With community comes understanding, shared values, support and love. Aren’t those aspects of friendship?
My in-person and online friendships are different, of course. But both are so valuable to me and both worth nurturing and valuing!
Great questions, Becky.
I have a friend that I get together with at least twice a week, usually for lunch. We’re both avid book lovers and have the same taste in movies so we often go to movies or browse Barnes & Nobel together after the partaking of a good meal. It’s a friendship I’d really hate to lose.
Yet, there are people in my Twitter stream (you are one of them) I also deeply enjoy. I know my time with them is very limited, but there’s something about that limitation that makes me value the connections I’ve made a great deal.
The sense of humor, the chunks of wisdom and insight, their observations about their world lightens my heart everytime I see one of their tweets or blog posts.
I truly love and honor both types of friendship. I agree with Erin. Both types of friendships are worth nurturing and valuing.