I made a new friend tonight! Well, I think I did. The message I received said, “So & So has accepted your friend request.” That means I’ve got a new crony, a new sidekick, right? I’m still struggling with this. Is this really the way friendship works? I find the name of someone I knew years ago and click on the link which invites me to “add as friend”. And, then I wait. Not exactly on pins and needles, but I just gave someone the opportunity to reject me. Can I tolerate it if they don’t want me in their friends list? Do I really want to give them that power over me? As time passes and no response is received, is this cause to be saddened or depressed? Have I really been rejected, or could this just be someone who never checks their account? It’s a release of emotion when the message finally arrives. I breathe a sigh of relief and send a message thanking them for their magnanimity. After all, they’ve just given me access to a part of their life and I to them. We’re Friends!
Again, I ask. Is this the way it works? Wouldn’t it be better if we could just be Facebook Acquaintances? Honestly, many of the folks in my “friend” list could more accurately be placed in that category. I want to keep a relationship with them, but we’re never going to be best buds. We’ll do the online equivalent of the nod and a wave to acknowledge each other’s existence, just as I would if I met someone on the street, commenting on happy occasions and also on sad ones, but we’ll not be close. We’ll not actually be “friends”.
Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy Facebook. It has given me a chance to make contact with many people who had dropped out of my life, people whom I enjoy knowing. I count it a privilege to have grown up with many of them, but even as children, we weren’t bosom buddies. We shared common experiences in school or church and we have a history in each other’s lives. I wouldn’t trade my past with them for anything and I’m grateful for the means to reconnect. That said, true friendship normally runs a little deeper. And, you don’t become friends with the click of a computer key on one end of the Internet and a reply on the other end.
The gift of true friendship is a rare one. It is a gift and not something you request, as you would with a shopping list or a Christmas list. Friends gravitate to each other for various reasons, but we stay friends because we share a bond, a love for each other that won’t be broken by time, or distance, or age. There is a Proverb in the Bible that warns us that a man with many friends often comes to ruin. Then it tells of the kind of friend that I want, one who sticks closer than a brother. But, don’t think this is about someone who never leaves your side physically.
When I talk about true friends, it doesn’t have to mean people who are geographically close. I don’t even intend to say that we have to have frequent communication. I have one friend, with whom I grew up, who comes to visit from his home eight hundred miles away once every four or five years and I visit him just about that often too. We don’t talk on the phone constantly or send emails even frequently, but when we get together, our friendship is unchanged from 10, 20, even 30 years ago. We laugh, talk, even cry together, with no sense of discomfort, no reticence to speak openly about the things that close friends talk about. We didn’t find this relationship by clicking on an icon (we’re not even Facebook friends), and our sense of closeness isn’t compromised by absence or lack of constant contact. True friendships last. They transcend the miles and the years, and they overlook the changes that inevitably come in our lives.
I’m not advocating for boycotting social media, not even wanting to slander it. I am suggesting that we need to be sure we understand the important, even essential relationships in our lives and not cheapen them by an imitation, blowing-kisses kind of connection. I’ll continue to click on the “request friend” button, but I’ll not be fooled into thinking that a friendship can be achieved as cavalierly as that.
I kind of like the way the singer, Michael W Smith, expressed it a few years ago when he sang, “Friends are friends forever”. Give me a hand-shake and a bear-hug from an old friend and I’ll be content.
Or, you could try sending that friend request. You never know…
“Pooh, promise you won’t forget about me, ever. Not even when I’m a hundred.”
Pooh thought for a little. “How old shall I be then?”
Pooh nodded. “I promise,” he said.
(A. A. Milne~The House at Pooh Corner)
(originally posted 1/7/11)