My blog today is contributed by Sherrey Meyer, a good friend and fellow writer who is working on a memoir about growing up in a matriarchal culture.
Henri Nouwen’s quote defines the foundation of a friendship. In looking at online definitions of the word “friendship,” they are many. Not one encompasses the qualities necessary to move from “being friends” to a true and lasting friendship.
The definition found in Urban Dictionary is worth reading and understanding as it relates to today’s ever-growing cybernetic society:
“Something that is much underrated in our society. Friendship is actually a form of love (here I’m not talking exclusively about erotic love). It’s not a lesser form of love than erotic love, only a different form of love. In fact, the ancient Greeks had a word, “phileos”, more or less equating to fraternal/brotherly love (friendship). …” [read more here]
With the birth and exponential growth of social media, we use new words to define or describe friendships and how they are created. As the 2000s rolled by, social media networks burgeoned and we began to meet new people online. “Friending” someone on Facebook became commonplace, an action most often based on a prior relationship. “Friending” a stranger may occur because you know someone who knows someone who knows someone.
But, “friending” or “following” on social media is not as companionable as meeting up face-to-face. Chatting with old friends over a meal or making a new friend as the result of attending a conference or workshop, or even at the coffee shop where casual conversation begins.
Questions loomed around “friending,” “following,” “linking up with” online. Could we build “friendships” via social networking? Could you become friends with someone you couldn’t see? What impact is there on the definition of friendship?
In an article by Phil Barrett of Burning the Bacon with Barrett, he states his answer to the question of defining “friendship” and the impact social media has had on it. Quoting Barrett here:
Social Media has changed the definition of friends. Just as media consumption and interaction has fragmented with new technology, so [have] our relationships and how we define them.
Best friends and trusted business associates will always be there for you – but social media has allowed us to cast a wider net personally and professionally – and thereby expanding or evolving who we consider a friend.
My response to the question of defining solid friendships is simple. Along the way in my online writing journey, I have made many friends. This summer I had the opportunity to meet in person three women I met online because of our shared interest in writing. The three just happened to be travelling through Portland at various times in the summer months, and I was able to meet each one face-to-face. Those intimate interactions, one-on-one, changed nothing of how I felt, except this: Face-to-face, intimate sharing of conversation and personality instilled in me a greater fondness for each one of them. When I’m online, I know who they are and what they do, but I don’t receive the pleasure of seeing the twinkle in the eye, hearing the laughter, or grasping other emotions shared during personal conversation.
Those are individual characteristics that for me encompass the definition of friendship. Getting to know the real person.
Coupled with Barrett’s widening net theory and my real-time meeting with my online friends, I can say the expectations I have held for decades with respect to making and keeping friends have not changed so much. I can still find and enjoy sharing interests, values, and mutual support and encouragement with all of my friends, both online and the ones I can reach out and touch.
Maintaining online friends, just as in keeping nearby friends, requires the same give and take of a real-time friendship. Intentional and authentic support, encouragement, caring, and honoring the other’s privacy and space are still important factors.
What about you? Please share your thoughts on defining friendship and what you think social media’s impact has been on friends and friendships.
A retired legal secretary, Sherrey Meyer grew tired of drafting and revising pleadings and legal documents. She had always dreamed of writing something else, anything else! Once she retired she couldn’t stay away from the computer, and so she began to write. Among her projects is a memoir of her “life with mama,” an intriguing Southern tale of matriarchal power and control displayed in verbal and emotional abuse.