In the world of real-life relationships, we often build friendships based on proximity.

We become close friends with others in large part because we live or work close to them.

Rebecca lived downstairs from me when I lived in Chicago. Only about 12 steps separated our front doors.

Sheila lived downstairs too — right below us; on the day she moved in, I grilled hamburgers on our back deck and invited her to join us for dinner, the first of many meals we shared.

If you’ve ever lived in a multi-unit condo building, apartment, or dorm, you know that sometimes living close to others can create friction and discord. “Your kids are too noisy.”  “Your car is too close to my parking space.” “You’re not doing your share of the building maintenance.” 

Since Sheila lived below us, she knew when one of our kids got up at night; she could mark the moment at night when they were all settled in their beds. Instead of allowing our noise to cause conflict, she called it comfort. I like knowing you’re up there, she said.

Living in proximity may remove privacy but it also allows for regular and frequent interaction that deepens and intensifies a friendship.If Sheila had a bad day, I could pop downstairs to listen face-to-face. Rebecca and I took walks to the park together after the birth of her first son.

Living in proximity removes the boundaries of time and distance, and spontanaiety rules. Spending time together seems easy when you’re already in the same place.

I’m walking to Dairy Queen… want to come? We have some extra soup… join us for dinner? It’s too cold to go outside today… let’s get the kids together for a movie party.

You can use the power of proximity to build social media connections, as well.

Hang out in the same places at the same times. If you want to use the power of proximity in your online relationships, think about where you want to hang out online and when it makes sense for you to do that. Is Twitter your place? Facebook? A business or special interest related online community? Do you like early mornings? Lunch hour? Late nights? Weekends? When you choose your time and place, pay attention to who else shows up. Those people who consistently show up? They’re the ones who are likely to become your close online friends.  

I am often on Twitter in the early morning. Because I have made that my habit, I’ve gotten to know who the other early birds are. We seek each other out for conversation and engagement. 

Bring people closer on purpose. I create Twitter lists of friends I want to follow closely so I can see their tweets even if we’re not online at the same time. Since it’s impossible to read EVERY TWEET of every person I’m following, Twitter lists help me hone in on the most important ones.

I think of the people on my Twitter lists as my next door neighbors. Whenever I come online to play, I see their familiar faces. I can wave, say hi, make the connections that build our relationships.

Connect more often, in more places. Real life relationships grow closer when people interact in new environments. If I want to help you know me better, I invite you to my house. Or if you have only known me at home, I invite you to my workplace. If I let you see me in various places, I create context for our relationship which helps you know and understand me better.

Online, we can build stronger connections by interacting across multiple social media platforms. I may share some parts of my life on Twitter, and I share more on Facebook. If you read my blog, you will get to know me even more. If we connect on Skype, you will probably be able to tell instantly when I’m online. If I turn on my camera, you will see my sometimes wildly crazy curly hair. Or you’ll find out that I am usually wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

Connecting across many platforms may remove privacy, but it creates context, gives people a more complete perspective of who I am, and allows for spontaneous conversations. 

Tell me something! What close real-life relationships have you formed because of proximity? How do you use the power of proximity in your online relationships? How important is privacy to you in real life? Online?