What, Really, is a “Friend?”
I have 1,770 friends on Facebook right now. This is not bragging, it’s just what is. What does this tell you about me?
You might guess, rightly, I’m an extrovert. I am, but not completely.
I can be extroverted, for sure. But only when I get plenty of that quiet, self-reflective alone time. Prayer. Without that, I get burned out real fast.
What Drives Me
I love people. That is what is motivating me (along with my husband) to create CultureWeave. We seek to equip people, especially families, to build meaningful relationship across cultures and illuminate the good in our world.
And yes, I believe there’s a whole lotta good, even with the challenging times we now find ourselves in. In spite of all the hurt, the hate, the polarization – there is, deep down, a current of love. Often, it’s just waiting to be unleashed.
I believe every human has great capacity to love, and much capacity to hate. We are the ones who choose which of these forces guide our days, and our moments.
For part of truly loving others, especially across traditional (and not-so-traditional) divides, is to welcome differences, to view the diversity of the peoples of the world as a creative expression of a Master Designer. We respond to the call to activate a learner’s heart. And in the process we discover the greatest language in this world is love & genuine interest in others. This language crosses all boundaries.
In fact, loving people informs every aspect of my faith. And I believe it is what Jesus desires. I want the heart of Jesus to touch every aspect of my life, every aspect of my days, every interaction and relationship.
You might also guess, even assume, that I have a lot of superficial relationships among those 1,770. Truth is, there is a portion of this group whom I barely know. We shared a singular, memorable experience, friended each other on Facebook, and it didn’t go much further than that.
Guilty as charged.
But, in reality, that is not the norm. It’s the exception. How do I know? I just scrolled through my entire list of Facebook friends.
Yes, I’ll confess. There are some I can barely place. Even a few I don’t really know. “How did we get connected, anyway?” But this group is much lower than ten percent.
Quality and Range of Relationships
What did I find as I scrolled?
Relationships. Depth. Memories. And a big smile to my face as so many passed along my screen. Indeed, I felt it was like a journey of praise to God who has given me the joy and privilege to know so many precious souls.
Because I am an interculturalist, my relationships are wide-ranging. I have friends scattered all over the world, representing all different backgrounds, beliefs, cultures, ethnicities and races.
I saw so many people I had helped. And so many who had helped me. Many who have made me a much better person today than I would’ve been if they hadn’t graced my life.
In fact, it brought tears to my eyes. A longing to be with so many of them, scattered out in time and space.
And then the handful who are no longer on this earth. Peter, Paul…Millie and Sebrina. The first three lived long lives of depth, color and purpose. Life so rich, so global, so servant-minded my heart cannot but offer praise for their legacy. When each passed, I mourned a great deal for their absence. A hole most certainly remains.
But Sebrina. So young. At 36, she appeared to have so much of life ahead. Her journey had taken her through the storm of cancer before. This had led her to sharpen her faith walk and live her life in a very purposeful way. She literally impacted hundreds – perhaps thousands – of her Taiwanese university students during those many years of remission.
But then cancer returned, and it was only a matter of time before she left and met her Maker. There was dancing in heaven, but mourning on earth. We had lost a sweet soul.
All four remain memorialized through Facebook. A twist in this age of social media: humans have achieved a new type of “immortality.”
Well, kind of.
Facebook in 2100 is not a guarantee. Few institutions survive hundreds of years.
What is the True Value in this Exercise?
Having 1,770 Facebook friends does not mean anything in terms of worth. I am not something “more” than the person who has 17 Facebook friends (or isn’t using social media).
We cannot measure the value of a person in Facebook friends or even (commonly used) financial net worth. Nor in social status, fame or even contribution to the world (although this last, if positive, certainly is of value).
No, the value of a person is in the quality of character, the heart of service, the understanding of position (especially, in my perspective, relative to the awesome nature of God), the heart of humility.
Herein lies value.
Do you view social media as a relationship-building tool for good? If so, how do you cultivate real, meaningful and lasting relationships through social media? If not, why not?