One of my Facebook friends put this question to his fellow Facebook friends: “Are Facebook Friends real friends?” The few people who commented didn’t dodge the issue. A couple of them said that too many Facebook Friends are only numbers in the tallying up of competitive totals. Some of them, including me, said some remain total strangers, some become honest on-line friends, and some are people we know as actual face to face acquaintances.
I thought about this question later and remembered that several of my Facebook friends are friends and family of people I’ve known personally as co-workers, casual face to face friends, or are relatives. I’ve never indulged in competitive “friending” on social media because it seems pointless. On the other hand, some individuals who belong to special interest Facebook groups but have no other connection to face to face friends have become on-line friends.
Society sometimes uses the word “friend” loosely. I stopped at the jewelry store this Saturday to have a battery replaced in one of my wristwatches. The lady at the counter summoned the technician from the back room and told him, “Our friend here, would like a new battery for his timepiece.” I understood that the woman was using polite business etiquette and was speaking professionally. However, cold inauthenticity was betrayed by her tone of voice.
After the technician completed replacing the battery and setting the watch, I paid the small fee. Before leaving the store, the technician asked how long I have owned the watch, where I purchased it, and if I wore it very often. It turned out that he has a similar watch. We had a genuinely friendly conversation about our admiration for the timepiece. Although our chat lasted only five-minutes or so, I felt that we had made a meaningful, friendly connection.
Earlier this spring, a notice to renew my membership as a “Friend of Nebraska Public Radio” arrived in the mail. I send them a check every year out of habit without giving it much thought. I wonder if such foundations as “friends of the public library” or “friends of the county museum” put the word “friends” in their names for a purpose or if this is merely a well-established tradition. It certainly is more pleasant to send money to friends than to total strangers even though the “friends” are people I only hear on their radio shows.
Call me old fashioned, but I still think of friends as people for whom I feel affection and esteem. At the very least, a friend is someone who is a close acquaintance.
Aside from love, friendship might be the second most popular topic that writers and philosophers like to ponder.
One of my favorite quotations about friendship comes from Khalil Gibran. “In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”
In less flowery words, American colonial leader William Penn said, “A true friend freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.”
Gibran and Penn sum up my thoughts about friendship succintly.