Even before a pandemic locked us in our homes, the digital age was chipping away at the heart of friendship. Facebook friendships seem to be a mainstay and Zoom calls replace face-to-face interactions.
Welcome to the new definition of friendship.
I remember the first time Facebook asked me: “Do you know this person outside of Facebook?” as I was accepting their friend request. Good question.
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. However, that question 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 texting and electronic mail powerful enough to redefine such a basic characteristic of human society?
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.”
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”Proverbs 14:20
When we post a quick reply to a Facebook status and move on, we aren’t practicing the art of friendship. In fact, we might be doing as little as possible to assuage our guilt without putting our own comfort at risk.
I’m afraid this sort of faux-friendship is making the younger generation misunderstand the depth of true friendship. What is true friendship? The type 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.
Like so many things in this digital age, this misunderstanding and misrepresentation of friendship makes me sad.
Or maybe I’m giving emphasis where none is due. Maybe the shrinking of our world by the reach of the Internet has made our lives richer.
When psychologists agree most people only have at most five true good friends at any given time, the move to connect with thousands of “friends” on social media diminishes the importance of those deep connections.
In the isolation of this pandemic, I can’t help but wonder, who are my friends? I’m pretty sure most of those I “know” on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets won’t show up on my doorstep if I need a ride to a chemotherapy appointment or suddenly find myself a widow.
Isn’t that what true friends are for?
What do you think? Has your definition of friendship changed over the past year or two?