Woman with cell phone
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"But I don't want to join Twitter," my friend Leda says, fighting off my entreaties to start tweeting so we can stay in touch throughout the day. "I already feel like I spend too much time online. Don't you feel like it just distracts you from actually connecting with people?"

Leda had a point. I'd been on Twitter for over a year, but it was only in the past few months that I'd gotten into it as a daily part of my routine. And while I loved its chattiness, I was mostly chatting with people I barely knew.

A normal human being might have solved the problem by spending less time on Twitter and more time on the phone. But many of my closest friends are on the East Coast or in Europe, so by the time I get my kids in bed, it's too late to call. That's how I fell into tweeting: it lets me have a (pseudo) social life during the hours of the day when I'm actually available to chat.

But that was no reason to connect with casual acquaintances more than dear friends. Inspired by my conversation with Leda, I sorted my Twitter buddies so that the people I loved most were in a special group. Then I set up my Twitter client to give special prominence to the updates from people I love—or people I could love if we had more contact. Overnight, Twitter stopped being a way to keep up with colleagues and became a way of keeping in touch with friends.

Whether your online interactions happen on Facebook, Twitter or some other platform, you can bring the same quality of intention to your online relationships. Online conversation can be a great boon to your friendships, but only if you organize your online socializing around the kinds of relationships—and that specific people—that matter to you.

Know who and where your friends are

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