1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony.
3. a person who is on good terms with another; a person who is not hostile: Who goes there? Friend or foe?
4. a member of the same nation, party, etc.
5. ( initial capital letter ) a member of the Religious Society of friends; a Quaker.
I understand that my personal definition of friend is not necessarily going to exactly match everyone else’s. I likewise understand that there are degrees of friendship; I myself, if pressed, could generally classify various friends in a fairly quantitative way that I think would make sense to most. So I get that.
HOWEVER. I cannot help feeling that social media has somehow confused the masses about friendship, and frankly, I think it’s time we rectified some misconceptions about friendship, etiquette, and why I think I may know more than the usual number of people who are either completely clueless or on drugs.
Let’s start with blogging, shall we? I blog. Maybe you blog. If you’re reading this, are we friends? Let’s think about that: People often tell me that reading my blog makes them feel like we’re friends. That’s part of what I really like about blogging, and I totally understand that, because I have the same reaction when reading blogs I like, too. “I totally feel like I know her!” I think, after reading someone whose writing totally resonates with me.
The trick, I think, is to remember the difference between “feeling like” you know someone and ACTUALLY knowing someone. Friendship is reciprocal; if you read me, but we’ve never actually talked, I still think you’re really pretty and everything, but… we’re not actually friends.
What if you’ve commented and I’ve emailed you back? What if that’s happened, say, more than once? Well, now we’re acquaintances at least. You know me, I sort of know you. We’re friendLY, at a minimum. We have both participated in interaction with one another. Definitely closer to friendship than a lurker who’s never commented, yes. But friends? It depends.
My rule of thumb is that if you have to WONDER if you’re friends with someone… chances are, you’re not. Think about your inner circle: Do you have to consider whether or not you’re BFFs? No. Obviously.
But back to degrees of friendship, for a minute. Not everyone can be besties. There’s definitely levels of friendship. So, my personal friendship hierarchy might go something like this:
BFFs: I love you, you love me. If you say you need me, I’ll be there, and ditto for you, no questions asked. We’ve known each other a really long time. You’ve seen me cry. We never get to spend enough time together (damn life, always getting in the way). I think of you like a sister.
Good Friends: I love you, you love me. I can ask you for a favor in a pinch and you know you can do the same. We’ve known each other for quite a while. You’ve seen me upset. We wish we had more time to see each other (damn life, always getting in the way). I think of you as part of my village.
Casual Friends: I am quite fond of you, and you of me. We enjoy chatting but don’t often actively seek out each others’ company. Chances are excellent our children are friends or we’re email or Facebook kind of friends. I think of you as someone in my sphere who I don’t mind running into.
Acquaintances: My feelings towards you are probably neutral. I don’t really know how you feel about me, but I assume it’s about the same. Circumstances sometimes bring us together. We know each others’ names.
Colleagues: My personal feelings towards you aside, I consider you a coworker of sorts. For business reasons I will be cordial towards you, and for personal reasons I may also consider you either a casual or a good friend. Even if not a friend, I may maintain a bit more of a relationship with you than I would a mere acquaintance, because we may be mutually beneficial to one another, work-wise.
So that all makes sense, right? I mean, I think it does.
But. Then life suggests to me that either I’m all crusty or people just don’t think.
First example: Facebook friend requests. I’ll friend just about anyone on Facebook if I know them. I’m not terribly picky about it. But I feel like the key words there are IF I KNOW THEM. I receive an astonishing number of Facebook friend requests from people I don’t know, and 90% of them come without a message of any kind.
Hint: Read my blog, and want to be friends on Facebook? Send a request and include a note that says, “I’m a fan of your blog!” I will probably then accept your friend request, because I at least have some CONTEXT.
True, sometimes a friend request comes from someone I don’t know, but we have 100 friends in common, and then I can look at those friends in common and say to myself, “Ah, surely this is someone who [reads my blog] [went to my high school] [enjoys goofy pictures of small dogs]” as warranted.
But a really good way to get me not to accept your friend request AND to wonder if you’re a deranged stalker is to request friendship without a note when I have no clue who you are. (I supposed you could include a note and STILL be a deranged stalker, but at least then you’d be a deranged stalker with nicer manners.)
Second example: LinkedIn connection requests. Everything I just said about Facebook goes double or maybe triple for LinkedIn. If you’re some random person who wants to look at my pictures of Licorice on Facebook, eh, whatever. But LinkedIn is where I’m conducting my business, so how savvy of a business move is it for me to connect with someone I don’t know at all, who couldn’t even be bothered to take five seconds to write an introductory note? Exactly.
While that doesn’t happen as often as the random Facebook requests, I seem to get at least one LinkedIn request a week from someone I don’t recognize. And the default message you get if you don’t include a personal message makes me laugh, every time:
Random McWhopants has indicated you are a Friend:
Since you are a person I trust, I wanted to invite you to join my network on LinkedIn.
Dear Random McWhopants:
Call me a fussy grammarian, but I dislike the substitution of “since” for “because,” which means your brief note has already made me dislike you. Additionally:
1) I have no idea who you are.
2) While it’s flattering that you trust me, it’s also creepy (see 1).
3) I try only to add people to my network whom I both know and trust (see 1 and 2).
4) Therefore, while your invitation is very kind (?), no thanks.
Is this a side effect of social media, people somehow losing touch with the basics of, “Hello, nice to meet you?” Or am I just being a curmudgeon?
Wait, before you answer that, GET OFF MY LAWN.
[Edited to add: OKAY OKAY OKAY!! I caved. You can now become a fan of this blog on Facebook, and then we can ALL be BFFs! Yay!!!]