Friend?

You know when you write a word over and over and over and over...and eventually it starts to look somehow wrong?

Or when you use a word over and over and over and over, like "OMG, I love that sweater!", "I love that movie!", "I love that couch!", "I love these socks", "I love pomegranate lip gloss!" and eventually the word LOVE loses some of its true meaning and meaningfulness?

I think this is what has happened to the word and perhaps by extension, the concept of a FRIEND. Quite specifically in the realm of social media.

I write this after almost a month of not writing a whole lot because of personal issues and insecurities about myself and my place in this online world and with my friends within it.

Recently on Facebook, I was 'un-friended' and blocked from someones personal page. I did not think this was a big deal. We are not very close and have more of a professional relationship than a personal one. I read her status update before she removed me (and quite a few other people too) and I respected her decision to keep her page personal and for her close friends and family members.

Remember when that was what we used Facebook for? To keep our friends and family updated on our lives. Remember how fun it was to post pictures of the kids and our vacations for all our friends and family to oooh and ahhh over? When we could write personal messages on our pages and not worry about who was lurking about to see where we are and who we are with and who we are talking to? When no one was taking screen shots of our pages and forwarding them on in emails to other people for God knows what reasons? When every App on earth wasn't asking to 'GeoTag' you and announce to the world where you are "checking-in"?

Back then (a whole two years ago, if that even), you had maybe about 67 friends on your Facebook page and hadn't even heard of Twitter. And every one of those friends was either AT your wedding or at one of your birthday parties in the past 5 years!

So, {at least in my mind}, this begs the question....

Has the inescapable realm of Wifi, and unlimited data plans and Twitter and Facebook and Google+ and FourSquare and... and... and... completely wrecked our understanding, interpretation and definition of FRIENDSHIP?

Think about this for a minute.

How many of your {insert number here} Facebook friends would drop everything and come over to watch your kids if you were stuck in bed with the worst flu of your life? How many would dog-sit for you in an emergency? How many would buy you coffee and give you an ACTUAL hug if you were having a really bad day? How many would pick up the phone and call you....or even have your direct phone number for that matter?

What then constitutes a true friend? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of the word is this:

Definition of FRIEND

a: one attached to another by affection or esteem   
   b:acquaintance
a: one that is not hostile
   b: one that is of the same nation, party, or group
3  : one that favors or promotes something (as a charity)
4  : a favored companion

 

I do believe that there are levels of friendship and some friendships are closer than others. Some are deeper. Some are based on a long history together, some on mutual life experiences, some on similar belief systems and some on the simple foundation of a love of all things shoes. And these days, some are IRL and some are SOF (strictly online friend - I think I just made that up).

For the sake of full disclosure, I have ONE Best Friend. I have known her for over 20 years and she has seen me in all my good, bad, ugly, beautiful, sick, elated, sad-beyond-belief and so-excited-I-could-fly glory! And I hers. And we RARELY talk via social media.

On the other hand, I have 190 Facebook Friends. And if I sat down and set up some form of criteria for who and what I truly believe a friend is, I know that this number would decrease significantly. Or at least be divided into categories.

I found this post by Kristen Tennant about the four levels of friendship and I think she does a pretty good job of describing these levels or categories.

Category 4 friends are people you say hello to and maybe stop and chat for a while if you run into them at the cafe or bar. They’re probably friends of yours on Facebook, but if it weren’t for Facebook, they would have almost no clue what’s going on in your day-to-day life.

Category 3 friends encompass a lot of people like co-workers, members of your church or community, the parents of your kids’ friends, and others you see and talk to regularly but don’t necessarily go out of your way to get together with. Every once in a while, you might decide to call them up and see if they want to meet you for lunch, or you might invite them to a big party you’re having, but the expectations of your relationship are low and the interactions are casual.

Category 2 friends can get more complicated, because the relationship is deeper, but the expectations often aren’t clear. They’re your go-to friends when you feel like getting a group of people together on a Saturday night, or you want to go out to dinner to celebrate a birthday, or you feel like inviting someone over for dinner. These are the friends you spend time with once or twice a month, but I also think we keep ourselves (or our hearts?) at a bit of a distance, to protect ourselves from feeling left out, hurt, or disappointed when they don’t come through.

And Category 1 friends? I think I would describe them exactly the way my nine-year-old daughter would: They understand you—they get who you are at your core, which means you can completely be yourself around them, without worrying what they will think. Category 1 friends like to spend time doing the things that you like doing best. And they always want to see you. Whenever you feel the urge to see them, they’re ready and waiting, thrilled to see you if they can possibly make it happen.

Now, no, I am not about to go and categorize everyone on my Facebook page, but I will make the case for having Lists on Twitter and Facebook and deciding how much you want to interact or share with these lists. You can set these criteria in your account privacy and settings pages on both platforms and on Facebook, no one knows when they are added/removed from one of your lists and on Twitter you can make both private and public lists.

How you use social media is of course your prerogative. These are after all your pages and what you do with them is your choice. So if you want to remove me, un-friend me, un-follow or block me from your friend list or your feed because we really are not much more than acquaintances or we have more of a business relationship than a personal one, go ahead, it is OK.

I will not be offended and I will respect your wishes.

And if need be, I generally know how to get in touch with you outside of stalking ...uhm, I mean, social media.

Natasha~

P.S. And now for my favourite song about Facebook by the incredible Kate Miller-Heidke. (WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS-NOT FOR THE KIDDIES!!)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0FdR7dEAYU[/youtube]

P.P.S.  I'm BaaaAAAAACK!!!

Photo Credit: Wonderbra Print Ad. 2009. Reza Behnam-photographer.