Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers advice for maintaining your mental health.
I was talking with my son about the superficiality of virtual friends with whom we only have contact online. Then, I checked messages I never think to check and heard from a 2nd cousin with whom I had lost contact for years. I felt an instant closeness based on childhood memories with his family and the sharing of our parents' passing.
There are people we see daily but don't ever connect with completely. There are people with whom we talk rarely and feel an intimacy which we can hardly explain. Usually, an actual conversation on the phone feels closer than email or Facebook. The communal sharing of moments and photos gives a sense of knowing about someone more than really knowing someone. Certainly, there is a continuum of intimacy based on type of communication interacting with quality of communication. Then, there are feelings and memories. It's interesting who clicks with whom, when and how.
Here are some examples of emotional closeness-the ex-spouses who still share a bond beyond shared memories, the childhood friends who had no contact for years and then meet at a class reunion and keep in touch on the internet, the distant family who see each other every few years and like each other a lot every time, people who survived trauma together who were strangers before, colleagues who handled difficult situations well together and then got to know each other personally. Examples of emotional distance include the internet folks who are listed as "friends," but whose posts mean little to you most of the time, the community member who chats you up on the street but never calls or invites and turns down your efforts, the employee who only talks about herself, the group member who never asks about you but acts friendly, and online guild mates.