Redefining Friend in the Post Facebook Era

If judged by how many friends I have on Facebook, 62 as of this writing, I’d probably be in the “loser” category. That’s fine with me, mostly. See, I’m probably still stuck in the 80s with my big hair and shoulder pads (which, I’ve seen are making a fashion comeback!) with my definition of “Friend”. I’m definitely on the low end of the tipping point scale when it comes to defining how my group of friends works.

Just a few years ago, we had plain ol’ friends. Real friends. People we’d call or write periodically. People who we were close to even though we may not have talked or written as frequently as we had wished. And this would sometimes include “virtual friends”, those people we met online through message boards and forums and spent countless hours chatting about whatever it was that brought us to the website. Then as time went on we’d chat privately and by email, growing and developing a friendship.

Then came Facebook. OK, really, first it was MySpace but it was clear that this wasn’t about friendships but just people following other people in a bit of voyeuristic fashion. So, Facebook pops onto the public scene in 2010 (yes, it’s that young!) and thus begins the change in how “Friend” is defined. Quickly it went from being a noun to being a verb. Never in the history of the world did people ‘friend’ each other. But now that’s what we do. It’s a action, a doing, a one-click that connects people not because they are in fact friends but because they friended each other.

Like I said, I’m pretty much a loser when it comes to “friending” people. Besides my paranoid tendencies thanks to watching too much Criminal Minds, I guess I’m old-fashioned when it comes to calling someone a friend. I’m glad Facebook moved away from making us friend businesses, because that’s just kind of creepy. The Like is bad enough because I don’t only follow pages that I really do like, but I also follow pages that interest me for research purposes. But I digress.

Anyway, back to the friend thing. For me, a friend is much more than a few clicks on the computer. And a friend is much more than me reading about their life. Friend used to mean that people connected with each other and had conversation. In the realm of Facebook, people can be friends and have nothing in common other than having met once for 32-seconds.

The concept of friend that has evolved through Facebook reminds me of little kids meeting other little kids at the park. After 3 turns on the swing and a few trips down the slide together, parents will ask “Who’s your friend?” as if that’s all it takes to become a friend.

I know a lot of people. I’m friendly with a lot of people too. But I don’t consider them my friends. Being a friend is more. Or so I believe.

I’ve thought of adding many who have sent me friend requests and further compartmentalizing people. I know that, for some, there is a difference between friend and “Facebook friend”. I just haven’t gotten there yet.

Do you think Facebook has helped to redefine who we call ‘friend’?

 

Sara

Year of Awesome In Review

Today is the last day of my Year of Awesome. I kicked it off last year with a Reflection on Aging. It’s been quite a year. I’ve had so many amazing and wonderful experiences, visited beautiful place, shared with friends and have met a variety of extraordinary people. This past year has been Awesome!

It kicked off with a Mom’s Night Out, celebrating women. Days later I was off to Bloggy Boot Camp and found myself surrounded by women who believe in sisterhood.  Then came the whirlwind of CycleGuy heading off to the Bay Area for a new job opportunity.

And with that move, I became friends with an amazing group of women that embrace me for who I am and encourage me – quirkiness and all! I’ve always believed that friends are people who touch your heart, not just those that touch your hand. Because I have a sister by choice, I know about creating friendship in a virtual space. R and I have been friends for over 35 years, not having met in person until about 10 years after we first met through a pen pal exchange program. I never needed anyone to convince me of the power of the written to connect women – whether those words are written on paper or a computer screen. I knew the possibility.

At the end of summer I headed to New York for my first BlogHer experience, and it did not disappoint. I was able to meet many of my online friends in person, see the city, learn more about blogging and experience new things. The fall was 10 magical days at Disney World with BabyGirl and CycleGuy. The highlight of that trip was going to all four parks in one day! Yes, we are that crazy! It was one of the best Disney World experiences we’ve had – not just going to the parks, but riding all the major rollercoasters too. Multiple times! I can’t wait to do that again!!

New Year’s was celebrated visiting San Francisco. It included my family as well as my SupaDupaSexySisterhood – Grace, Carrie, Jessica and Countess Mo. It was a fantastic way to kick off 2011!

Throughout this year I’ve thought a lot about who I am. Now a ’40-something’ I looked back at the person I was. I’m also looking forward – creating the woman I want to be. And while I might never have considered myself a Badass, two women did. Again, women I’ve never met in person. Women who use written words to connect with people and have been able to hone their skills to find and nurture great friendships. I will forever be thankful to Diana and Amy for including me on their list of 75 Badass Women on Twitter. If I wasn’t a scaredy cat I’d get a tattoo. Maybe one of those temporary ones will be OK?

The best part of the Year of Awesome is that I rediscovered ME. And now I work to make sure I am always first. Because, as the saying goes: “If you can’t love yourself, how can you love someone else!”

Thank you for being part of my Year of Awesome!

Sara

Who Needs a Pen Pal When You Have Twitter?

Globe in Hands

About 35 years ago, (yes, I am that old) I was a young girl eagerly awaiting a letter from a show called Big Blue Marble telling me all the details of my pen pal. I would be assigned another young girl to write to and become friends with. And so began what is now my most enduring relationship other than the one I have with my brother or my grandma. At 6 I’m sure my letters were lame. But I waited so eagerly for my letter from R. R lived in a suburb of Detroit and she was just like me in so many ways. We wrote letter after letter.

For years our only communication was in letters, cards, boxes of baked goodies at the holidays and special little gifts. I honestly don’t remember the first time I ever spoke to her on the phone. I’m sure it wasn’t until I was 10 or 11. And when we did finally talk on the phone it wasn’t very long. Back then long distance calls were very expensive. And because we didn’t have much money, long distance calls were a luxury we couldn’t afford. But I never minded. And neither did she.

But now, who needs letters and phone calls and patiently waiting weeks to hear back from someone you really don’t know? Today, I can chat with R whenever I want. I have instant messenger, texting, Facebook, Facebook chat, Google Chat and a whole host of ways to be in touch. But that’s because I know her. Well.

As I’ve spent the last year connecting and engaging with Twitter, I’ve come to realize that it is just the modern day equivalent of the pen pal. Without the need for a pen. Or waiting.

I’ve met, talked with, laughed with, bantered and generally engaged with hundreds of people. Without regard to who they were. It’s hard to really size someone up on Twitter except for their basic bio and often a link to their website. Usually, though, it’s not all that much more information than I had 30-some years ago about R. But you go with it.

And people do become friends. My friend Diana (@AdamsConsulting) is a tech superstar. Earlier this week she wrote about how she became best friends with someone she met on Twitter. It was her story that got me thinking about how technology has brought people together just like a Saturday morning show brought me and R together. That as long as there is a common thread to connect people, strangers can form lasting relationships.

There aren’t many ways though. You can’t really do that on Facebook. There you connect with ‘friends’ or people you know or people who know someone you both mutually know. It’s not about connecting strangers. That’s what Twitter does best. It connects people who otherwise may not have met in real life. Not because we don’t have common ground, but because we’re very dispersed. I know people all over the world because of Twitter. I talk to them, often in real time, about topics ranging from A to Z.

There is so much power in the written word. Add a heavy dose of tech to it and make the exchange real time and relationships that may have taken years to solidify become rock solid exponentially faster. They’re not superficial. These are ‘I will give you my kidney’ type of relationships. And they’re forming every day because people are putting themselves out there and being themselves and making friends in a new way.

The interesting part is that if you’re not feeling the connection, the investment time is shortened. And, because there are multiple conversations happening at once there is an opportunity to learn a lot about other people and their views, hot buttons, passions, character and ethics very quickly. In some ways it’s harder to hide the skeletons now.

The only drawback I see is that forming these relationship doesn’t happen as early as it did for me and R. And it’s because we’ve been friends since early childhood that she knows everything about my past. She lived my life with me and shared all the milestones throughout my youth. There’s something powerful about that.

For adults though, we often lose sight of the importance of connectivity. It’s a lot of work to find people you really want to be friends with because of who they are not solely because they are close in proximity and therefore convenient. Twitter makes it possible to hold that big blue marble in our hands. The world becomes smaller.

Pen and paper are wonderful for connecting. But as an adult it’s impractical to send off random letters to strangers. Twitter, though, has come up with a way that in 140 characters you can form strong and significant relationships with people who would otherwise be strangers.

I’m sure you’ve made great friends online with people you otherwise may not have met. Isn’t that just phenomenal? If we aren’t connected on Twitter or Facebook, please click the little buttons at the top. And comment or send me an email so I can make sure I’m following you back on Twitter.

 

Sara