1.16.2014

Facebook Friendships with Travel Friends

So you've been bouncing around somewhere in the world on a massive trip. Your Facebook newsfeed is now in several different languages. (This is awesome, though it sometimes means a sidestep to Google translate to have any idea what your friends are talking about.) Can your new friendships withstand the complicated world of Facebook and internet etiquette across cultures?

There are some very awesome perks of being Facebook friends with the friends you make traveling: 
  1. You get to hear The Fox song before anyone else. 
  2. You get linked to news stories that are different from those your home country's media is fixated on. 
  3. You can practice your foreign language skills and get called out when your Spanish grammar is awful.
  4. You can share memories with the people you experienced them with instead of annoying your friends. 
  5. You can watch their humor styles conflict with other friends.
  6. You can plan future trips to visit each other. 
  7. If you are both traveling to a place you can maybe meet up again and explore a city together!
  8. They might even read your awesome blog! 
  9. They remind you that you didn't dream the whole trip. (As soon as you get home and into a routine, this is a clear and present danger.)
  10. They're awesome. You're awesome. That's why you're friends. And Facebook makes it official.
The people I've met have entirely revitalized my interest in Facebook! It's the easiest way to keep in touch with everyone ever, all at once!

But, you won't see these people in person for, at least, quite some time. How do you ever go about keeping in touch? Everyone is starting from a different cultural context, here.

No matter what your cultural context, 
Here's Some Basic Guidelines on How to Keep in Touch with your travel friends: 
  1. Be genuinely interested in what's going on in their lives. 
  2. Be awesome to each other.
  3. Make sure you can remember in which city you met and generally what you did together. 
  4. Remember, when making jokes, that it is a little harder to convey tone in a Facebook message. 
  5. When you remember an awesome place and the awesome people, take the time to drop your friends a line and remind them that it was awesome and so are they. 
Easy! Done and done. What could ever go wrong?

Usually, nothing. And it's awesome. 

But sometimes--sometimes--you catch up with people and realize that you knew them, really, only for a few hours, and that despite a previously pleasant exchange, their version of an online friendship is fatally different from yours.

Here's some Basic Guidelines on How NOT to keep in touch with your travel (or indeed any) friends:
  1. Do not confuse them with other people and reminisce on the wrong memories. (This will not make them feel special.)
  2. Do not post how much you hate a country, just because you had a bad day the one day you were there. (People from other countries can see you.)
  3. Do not post nationalistic/anti-immigration drivel about how foreigners are bad. (Again, PEOPLE CAN SEE YOU.)
  4. If someone is talking about travel plans, do not go into one-upping mode and talk down to them as if their plans or experiences are invalid and yours are in any way superior. (Yes, everyone is impressed you've been everywhere. No, it actually isn't all about you.)
  5. Do not scream "I've been there!" any time a reference to a place you've been comes up, even if it's a joke. (It's only funny to you. To everyone else it's a little bit braggy.)
The best thing about new far-flung friends is that you are reminded to stay open to different ways of thinking. However, as openminded as you want these communications to be, be aware that, regardless of cultural context, there are some lines you should consider not crossing.

Here's some Basic Guildelines on How to REALLY, SERIOUSLY, NOT keep in touch with your travel (or indeed any) friends:
  1. Look at the messages you are sending, and consider, before you send it, would it be considered wildly inappropriate if communicated in person? If not, do not send it. (It won't go well.)
  2. Do not message them just to tell them that they are super hot. (They're aware.)
  3. Do not ask about your new friend's sex lives out of the blue. If an acquaintance wants talk about their personal life, they will bring it up. (Facebook is not OKCupid.)
  4. If someone tells you they don't want to talk about whatever subject, respect their wishes and let it go. (Persistence is a virtue. Except when it's not. Then you're annoying)
  5. If someone does not want to talk about what you want to talk about, do not bait them and insult them. (It makes you look really mature.)
  6. In brief, don't be a creeper in person. Don't be creepy. Don't be creepy online.  It destroys friendships. (Unfortunately, there is no complete guide to internet etiquette. But come on.)
  7. Do not message people every day when they do not respond. (See above.)

There you have it! A complete guide to cross-ocean friendships. Travel is broadening, and introduces you to new people and new modes of thought. Staying friends with people from far off places remind you to keep a broad and open way of thinking. But there's a line between broad and open and creepy. It's not even a fine line. It's easy to see, and easy to avoid. Don't be creepy.
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