A Friend By Any Other Name

Facebook has ruined friendship forever.

Maybe not “ruined”. But certainly confused. Because I don’t really know what makes someone a friend anymore.

I love how FB came up with the “close friends” list, to help distinguish between the person you haven’t thought of since 3rd grade and the pal you see every week at church. But I’ve found that even that distinction doesn’t help. In fact, it makes me feel guilty about the people I decide don’t make the cut. Or maybe I don’t want to face the hard truth that I have few close friends. But is that really true?

What makes someone a friend? How do we distinguish someone who shares space with you on a regular basis because they have to, from someone whom you see every day but never exchange more than pleasantries with, from someone whom you list as an emergency contact but you’d never tell a secret to, from someone to whom you email your deepest struggles but you never see? Are all those people my friends?

I think there is a difference between trusting someone and entrusting yourself to someone. I know lots of trustworthy people – people with whom I would leave my children, people who could vouch for my character, people I would call if I had a flat tire or suddenly got ill. But it’s an entirely different thing to entrust yourself to someone – to share your heart, your joys and fears, to have your guard down, to enjoy being together just because. That kind of person is more what I would call a true “friend.” And by that definition, I guess you can’t have very many.

We all long to know others and to be fully known. It’s how we’re wired to be as human beings. It’s why FB can be so satisfying, when you see in blue and white all the people you know. It’s also why you can have lists of hundreds of “friends” and still feel completely lonely. It’s not enough just to have a connection; we need an investment. And that, my friends, is risky.

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