High-speed internet. Online banking. Facebook friendships replace face-to-face interactions. Welcome to our century and the new definition of friendship.
I remember the first time Facebook asked me: “Do you know this person outside of Facebook?” I was accepting their friend request. Do I have to know someone to be their friend?
Facebook was just doing research to help them meet the needs of their millions-wide audience. It provoked me to consider if friendship can be defined according to the status quo in this “Cyber Generation.”
Has our high-speed cyber-world changed the very definition of friendship? Is this new era of rush, text and electronic mail powerful enough to redefine such a basic characteristic of human societal interactivity?
It remains to be seen if a future Oxford entry for friendship might read “a person shown in your Facebook queue with whom you only interact electronically.”
Currently, friendship is “the state of liking and being with a person” or “the relationship between people who help or support each other” (Merriam-Webster).
In practical terms, this means friendship should be a support network. Can that happen on Facebook? Sure. However, if liking a status of someone going through a tough time is the extent of your “support,” you can hardly be considered a true friend.
Friendship involves reciprocity and respect. It takes an investment on the part of both parties.
Considering the academic definition, friendship makes people feel accepted. This sense of camaraderie extends through good and bad times.
We’ve all been warned about “fair weather friends.” The Bible has something to say on this subject is well. “The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends” (Pr. 14:20). Translation: a rich guy has plenty of friends s long as his money holds out. Case-in-point: The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
When we post a quick reply to a Facebook status and move on, we aren’t practicing the art of friendship. We’re doing as little as possible to assuage our guilt without putting our own comfort at risk.
This sort of faux-friendship is making the younger generation misunderstand the depth of true friendship. The type of friendship Jesus demonstrated when he laid down his life for all of us (John 15:13).
I think the ease of which we can claim “friend” status with people in the world of social media diminishes the importance of honest relationships. Relationships where people actually relate to each other and are connected.
Of course, if we want to categorize friendship by saying, “My Facebook friends think my book should be a best-seller,” we might be able to redeem the terminology. Just as we would say, “My best friend sent me a sympathy card when my cat died,” the additional qualifier explains the depth of the relationship. A best friend is closer than a Facebook friend.
If we continue to water-down words by applying them to broad situations, we shouldn’t be surprised when they lack meaning in a church setting. For example: the preacher says: “God is our father.”
“My father was an abusive drunk.” Suddenly the comparison of God as a father carries no weight for that person.
Friendship? Yeah, I’ve got 521 friends on Facebook and 1,315 followers on Twitter. I’m an expert on the subject of friendship.
Up next: Mentors as Friends