Reading the New York Times’ piece “What Do Friends Mean.”

Quote: “Today’s idea: The rise of social media and the downturn in the economy have people thinking long and hard about the value and meaning of friends — psychologically, socially and economically. Upshot: confusion.”

I am pleased that I can categorize my friends on Facebook, and that I can hide people who are purportedly my friends and those who, frankly, are not. They litter up my newsfeed with blather and froth and nonsense. But I do occasionally want to stalk them.

Both my teenage children have had experiences where they have built friendships from passing acquaintances in “real” life, to closer friendships in “online” life. And then when they come to connect with those friends in real life it all goes completely pear-shaped.

It’s what bingly-bongly parents call a “teaching moment.” (Ick.) But it is vitally worthwhile to talk and think about. Don’t mistake or confuse relationships in your social graph for those real, real friends in real, real life. There is simply no substitute for the nuanced choreography of a conversation. The facial and hand expressions. The voice inflection. The choice of words you use … in sentences very frequently in my case (as I am often teased about) of way more than 140 characters.

On the other hand, having social network “relationships” with my work colleagues has opened up new avenues of connection that would otherwise have been impossible. Many of the people I work with are hundreds of miles away. I see them only rarely. But I connect with them daily on Facebook. I see their families, their hobbies, their frustrations. That I like. It’s human.

But my real, real friends, in real, real life? I almost never talk to them online. They are strictly for face-to-face secrets and gossip. And that’s never going online for me.