Technological advances during the last ten years have significantly changed my definition for the word “friend”.
My friends acquaintance – someone I hadn’t spoken to in years – decided to friend me on Facebook today. I have a problem with that. No, not the fact that people want to renew old relationships or begin new ones, I’m all for that… but I don’t like the fact that the lines between strangers (against whom wise mothers warn you about), acquaintances (that weird guy from the CS department) and friends (who’ll answer the phone at 4am and tell you everything will be OK) have become so blurred.
How does one define the word friend? Looking at the average number of friends people have in Facebook, I’d say the term is quite broad… yet research shows that we can have healthy and enduring ties to at most 150 people.
I have accounts on Google+, Twitter and Facebook. When Google+ launched, I decided: Twitter will be my public channel of information, Google+ I shall use for more professional networking and Facebook will help me share with the people I care about most, which also meant that of all the information I share with the world, Facebook should be kept the most restrained. Meaning I had to find my personal definition for the term “friend”.
Quite simply put, a “friend” is someone I trust. Trust with keeping my privacy (although Facebook makes this so troublesome that it’s actually sensible to pay for being informed), trust with my thoughts and am willing to accept their trust in return. And trust… is earned. Faith is not something you immediately have for someone you met in a bar last night or a colleague from another country.
People take befriending online way too easily and are then hurt when irony happens. Another metaphor: would you have unprotected sex on the first date, no matter how much you’d want to?
She was offended when I didn’t accept her invitation to connect. I felt bad… and had to write down this advise: become a part of someones life and only then change your relationship status to “Friends”… and be understanding if the reply is “I’m sorry, but I just don’t trust you enough yet – but I want to.”
* These thoughts do not apply to professional networking such as LinkedIn.