24 April 2009

Layers of friendship...

I met Terry (face to face) during the 1996 Summer Olympics held in Atlanta. Our friendship started online and when he had to come to Atlanta to cover the events going on, we met for dinner one night (Sylvia’s – now gone the way of other closed restaurants) and became fast friends since then. Granted, distance, time and careers have often gotten in the way, but whenever we connect, it’s as if we are once again sitting in Sylvia’s, laughing, joking and having a good time. Terry is now one of my 400+ Facebook friends and he recently announced that he has surpassed his personal Facebook goal of 500 friends and hit the 2,000 friend mark. Go Terry! Of course, some of this HAS to be fan based. See, Terry is a sportswriter and radio personality in Detroit – so he has a little bit of celebrity going on and I am sure there is a bit of cache’ attached to being his “friend” – on and off of Facebook. But you know this got me to thinking, don’t you? How many of my Facebook friends are truly my friends? Are there different levels of friendship – not only online, but in real life? Hmm…

Like I said, I have a little more than 400 Facebook friends. And, if I hadn’t deleted some, I probably would have hit the 500 mark a long time ago. But I felt (and continue to feel) the need to limit who has what access I allow into my life. Since my FB (we Facebook addicts affectionately call Facebook) friends include co-workers, church members, classmates, family and real life friends, I am always conscious (on some level) about what I put on my page, what I write in my notes, what pictures I post of myself and my friends, what status updates are posted and how they are phrased. It is always amazing to me when a FB friend sees me in person and remarks on how they liked my pictures or they enjoyed a note I wrote or how they live their lives vicariously through my shared adventures. Really?! Wow. Especially when the person making the comment isn’t my “real” friend. Huh? What do you mean by that? Here is why I think there are “levels” of friendship.

There are FB friends who are my “real” friends – the inner circle – the first tier. They are the ones who know where I live, have been (or at least been invited) to my house. They are the ones who on my calendar because we have scheduled time to be together – whether to take in a movie or play or go see an exhibit or just go out to eat somewhere. They are the ones who call my mother “Mommy Rachel” and who know not to call me between 7:00-8:00a on Sunday because I'm on the phone talking to my grandmother. They are the ones who have my cell phone number programmed into their phones and use it for occasions other than emergencies. You know, the men and women who got my back and know that I have theirs as needed. That probably accounts for about 10-15% of my FB friends.

Then you have the 45-60% of friends who make up the secondary tier. They may have access to my cell phone number, but they never (or rarely) call me. They are the elementary, high school and college classmates that I have reconnected with online, but have yet to see face-to-face. Some of them are children that I babysat years ago who are now grown and living their own lives as adults. If they are my co-workers, we probably speak in the hallway, smile at each other, acknowledge each other’s birthdays (if we even notice it on the Portal at work or on FB) – we like each other, but probably have not spent any meaningful time together. They don’t know my family and I don’t know theirs. We’ve never been to each other’s homes and if asked, probably don’t know about hobbies, interests, or anything more than the superficial about each other’s lives. Doesn’t mean that these friendships are not as important or valuable – they are just not as intimate. (And these are usually the ones who surprise me the most when they say liked my pictures or my notes because I never thought they were that interested in what was going on in my life.)

The remaining 30% consists of my relatives (who shouldn’t be surprised by anything I say, do, or write since they have known me all my life – and yet, amazingly, I think I surprise them on a fairly consistent basis), and people that I have met on FB due to a common interest (like cooking or photography) or who became my friend because they are friends of my friends.

And sometimes, somehow, the three tiers overlap and intermingle and interconnect – making it all beautiful and wonderful and exciting. I have one FB friend who lives in London – we have never met face-to-face – but I feel like if I were to meet her today, it would be an instant connection and fast friendship based on the conversations we have had online. Regardless of the tier, every friendship and relationship adds value to my life – color to the rainbow of my existence – layers to the “onion” that makes me who I am. I thank each of you for your contribution to what makes my life so exciting and blessed.

Here’s the spiritual application: If Jesus had a Facebook page, I think all of us would be in His first tier of friends, and isn’t that a great feeling? It’s Friday. Have a blessed weekend and a great Sabbath rest.

Be blessed.

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