I have a Facebook and MySpace profile and I Twitter. I try to keep up on my blog and music website. But the overuse of the word friend has been bugging me lately. . .
When it comes to true friendship, do you really care about a person’s social status and genetics? Not that you don’t appreciate where your friend comes from or what she looks like, but is that the criteria to what makes her your friend? What is friendship in this age of social networking where the very word ‘friend’ is used so frequently and haphazardly – sort of cheapened by the minimum requirement of parking a one-dimensional picture of yourself on another person’s social profile, along with hundreds of others who have also been ‘approved’ for friendship. (Thought to self: “HELLO MR SOMEBODY! Holy cow, he has a trillion friends and twitter followers, he must be a real somebody – if I link to him will I be a somebody too?”)
If you dare peek at the insecurities you might be hiding from the world, you may find yourself admitting to feelings of inadequacy based upon comparing yourself to someone else i.e. your social status and genetics versus another’s. When a profile picture is supposed to represent the sum of who you are, so that people who pass by can click on, stay on, or move on based on how that picture affects them, shouldn’t that give us pause? Not that we can really change anything about that, but we want to at least keep it in perspective and not feel bad or too good depending upon the results. I’m also wondering if the number of a person’s online friends factors into whether that person is added as a friend or not. (I’m sure there’s some way to track that!)
Without veering too much into a diatribe on how shallow we are allowing ourselves to become, I’d like to plug the need to rescue the word friend from its superficial fate!
Webster’s definition of friend: “A person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; a person on the same side in a struggle; one who is not an enemy or foe; an ally; a supporter or sympathizer; helpful, reliable”
When you consider the true meaning of the word friend, you can see how a social networking mindset has highjacked it, minimizing its profoundness.
It’s pretty easy to keep a superficial relationship going online and think we have more friends than we really do. Conversely, we can be led to believe we don’t have enough friends and beat ourselves up over that.
Bottom line, we can’t let this popularity system of measurement define us.
FRIENDSHIP BEYOND THE COMPUTERS.
It’s unrealistic to embrace huge groups of people as close friends in the world beyond computers because of logistics and time restraints. But it does make sense to have a few intimate friends and then other types of friends of varying degrees. My good friend Sharon talks about it in terms of which tier category a friendship falls into. Sort of pyramid in shape (yet not in concept), it makes sense to say your closest friends are Tier 1 and your acquaintances are the bottom tier being the largest. She has also mentioned that friendships have seasons and how wisdom tells us to let certain people go and it’s ok to move on when it becomes necessary. And I have found that to be true.
I think the important thing to remember is if you call a person a friend, there’s some responsibility with it. Your time, effort, your heart are all involved. In the end, you are present for that person through the highs and lows of his life. You may not always be able to be physically present, but you can pick up where you leave off, showing you care, knowing your friend cares too.
It‘s nice to say hi and catch up with our online acquaintances, but what really matters in the dimension of the real world is cultivating a few true friendships with people who genuinely care about us and what happens to us – to be there ‘in person’ for each other. It’s healthier and it will probably help us live longer! We can only hope!