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How to Define the Ubiquitous Term "Friend"

What is it this genesis of this morbid attraction we all experience when it comes to Facebook? I swear off it, only to find myself drawn back into its murky web all over again. For me it’s the mirage of faces and personalities that feel real, that Facebook calls my friends. In some instances they do represent tangible people I see, love, hug and know. But sometimes I scrutinize features in a tiny icon and wonder if I’ve ever really brushed shoulders with the person and how we might be connected.

Yet these intangible entities talk to me, correspond with me and are my “friends.” My Facebook friends. Let’s not lose the importance of that distinction. If some of these people lived next store, went to church with me, or had to eat what I fixed for dinner, the friendship might come to a tragic and untimely end. They see what I allow them to see and know me only superficially. True friendship requires transparency, getting to know all the warts and flaws and loving in spite of them, and let’s be honest: that just doesn’t happen on Facebook.

The term “friend,” since Monica, Ross, Chandler, Joey, Phoebe, and Rachel first graced us with the illusion of relationships that seldom exist in real life, has changed. Dramatically. The munchkins at my house struggle sometimes in distinguishing the difference between a friendly acquaintance and a friend. I discovered the secret. First realize that the landscape of our lives is scenery we seldom choose for ourselves. Loss creeps in unwanted. Change happens. The unexpected debris can either crush us or provide an opportunity to find beauty once again. A friend, a real honest-to-goodness live and in the person friend, cheers for you, cries for you, laughs with you, and hugs you when the hurt spills over and runs down your cheeks.

I enjoy my online friends, but I hope I never lose perspective on how priceless a friend really is. A recent tragedy brought the truth home in a very real way. Meals, people overflowing the church, cards, letters, words of comfort made a tragedy bearable. Calling these people my friends in today’s loose vernacular denigrates the important place they occupy in my life and in my heart. It was their healing touch that bandaged my wounded heart. I appreciated the online gestures of support, but when you reach out to hug the one you lost and fall into the tangible arms of a friend, the distinction hits home.

So yes, I do appreciate my Facebook “friends.” I’d love to meet each and every one of them. And call them friends.

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