Social Media Friends

Or as my wife calls them, "Fake Friends"

Yes, you read that correctly. “Fake Friends”

In a time now past, my wife identified my online friends as “fake friends”.

Why? Why would she do this? And more importantly, to me anyway, was she correct in identifying hundreds of people I interacted with online as being “fake”?

Good question. And then one day we met some of them in person at a conference in Nashville. Suddenly these people had faces and voices and full bodies instead of simply a profile pic. These online personalities were suddenly real people. Face to face conversation occurred.

Michelle D and Rick 2015-05-12 13.57.05 Ethan Bryan David Clay Rick Nashville Courtyard Crew Nashville

Is that what makes online relationships real? Face to face personal contact?

Or, can an online relationship be true friendship without ever meeting in person. Does 2D need to become 3D or IRL (In Real Life) before a friendship has validation?

I’m going to argue for a “no” answer to the question.

Some of my best friends only exist in online interactions. Without ever meeting in person, I have developed incredibly solid friendships with dozens of people.

As of this moment, I have 1,632 “Friends” on Facebook.

Undoubtedly I don’t interact daily with each of them. But, there are a few I interact with every single day and I would miss them if a day went by without touching base with them.

I know some of you don’t think online friends can be true friends.

I know others of you would fade into the background of life if not for your online friends.

I also know how much joy I have when I get to meet one of these online friends in person.

Deep, deep, personal relationships have been developed online. I thank God everyday for these relationships. I can’t imagine my life without these people. I can’t imagine not having the interaction, the community, the family.

A year ago my best friend moved to South Carolina. I miss him. We’ve known each other for over 36 years. We’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve not talked to each other for months on end because one of us was stupid, which turned into both of us being stupid, but we always came back together.

I miss not being able to have breakfast with him on a morning I need him or he needs me.

But now he’s in South Carolina. How do we continue?

We become online friends.

It still takes work. Lots of work. Intentional work. The exact same work an in-person, 3D, IRL friendship takes.

And now I need to admit, I need to put in more work. I need to be intentional with my now 2D, online friend. He moved away, but in this age of technology we don’t need to move away from our almost 4 decade friendship.

So, Eric? Expect an email, or a Facebook message, or a text, or a Skype request.

That’s what I’m going to do. Be intentional. Online.

What are you going to do?

Intimate Friendship

Kinship In The Age of Social Media

I was challenged a couple of weeks ago to not discuss friendship in the abstract or generically, but to “get into the personal particulars” of true friendship.

Diving deep into friendship can be tough. But let’s do it anyway.

In discussing true intimate friendship, a couple of great examples come immediately to mind. The first being the Apostle Paul and his relationship with Timothy. The second being The Inklings (C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams).

Wise Circle Alli Worthington

photo credit: Alli Worthington

The word “intimate” is so often attached to a sexual relationship today. I believe it skews our thinking of how deep a relationship can be with the sexual aspect being included.

Here are a couple of definitions from Merriam Webster online.

NOUN
:a very close friend or confidant :  an intimate friend

ADJECTIVE
:having a very close relationship : very warm and friendly : very personal or private : involving sex or sexual relations
As you can see, sex and sexual relations are only a very small part of the definition. I personally love the idea of “confidant” as it relates to an intimate friendship.

The Inklings were certainly confidants of each other. Four men meeting frequently to discuss their ideas and writings. I think most importantly to discuss the ideas and writings they were working on. It is difficult for a writer to share the inner workings of creating a book. Writing is very personal. It comes from the depths of the soul. I believe this is even more valid for fiction writers. Can you imagine the discussion about the worlds created by Tolkien? To share those ideas and help one another flesh out grand ideas, takes true intimacy and trust.

A great resource to learn more about the deep, intimate, relationship of these men, is an incredible blog written by Jamie Lapeyrolerie called Book and Beverages. Jamie has curated a great series on The Inklings.

The other intimate relationship I mention, of Paul and Timothy, can be discussed at length too.

Timothy was Paul’s right hand man. If Paul needed something done, something attended to, Timothy was there for him.

Timothy was such an integral part of Paul’s life at the end, that he essentially called him a son.

Paul wrote two letters to Timothy that became part of the modern-day Bible. That’s how important their relationship was to the kingdom of God. Their intimate relationship was used to spread the Gospel story around the world, then and now.

Paul was in and out of prison during their relationship. In fact, the 2nd letter to Timothy was written from prison.

Paul trusted Timothy to work in the growing population of Christians as his personal mouthpiece. Paul could not travel freely, so he sent Timothy.

How much do you trust your intimate friends? Paul trusted his intimate friend to share the most important message in the history of the world. That’s next level trust.

Do you have anyone this intimate in your life?

Is it possible to have this level of intimacy in our modern-day lives?

Is there anything holding us back from creating these deep levels of intimacy?

I’m currently trying to develop these kinds of relationship with a few people. It isn’t easy. Hard work is involved. But I believe it is worth it.

Friendship

Kinship In The Age of Social Media

I’ve had this idea of “friendship” rolling around in my head for a few months now. Questions continually pop into my head (and I try hard to remember to scribble them down so I can write about them later). As we interact with people, when do they become friends? Can friends replace family? What makes a good friend? Why do some people have great, close friendships and others do not?

image

At the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College this year, my ideas on friendship were pushed and stretched and molded some more.

Interestingly, I was invited/encouraged/pushed to attend the festival by a great friend I had met online almost three years ago. She would be in town for the festival. I was looking forward to spending some quality time with her. It would be a time to reconnect about our personal lives, and to continue our connection through our writing.

What I didn’t know was the impact one of the speakers would have regarding my ruminations on the topic of friendship.

Author and Biblical Studies Professor, Wesley Hill, is writing and speaking extensively on the role of friendship in the church today. He specifically dives into the importance of friendship for the gay community in the church.

Listening to him speak, as a gay, celibate, Christian, actively involved in his church, made me begin thinking more about the idea of friendship and how deep the relationship of friends can be. He also helped me think more seriously about the role of my friends of both sexes.

Who are my closest, deepest, most important friends? Are they men or women?

Is it okay for me, a married, heterosexual, man, to have close friendships with women? Or, do I need to only have those close, kinship type, friendships with men?

Important questions.

Wesley Hill asks fellow Christians to care about friendship again. He has to. His decision to remain celibate forces him to examine and determine what is best for a relationship.

I, as a married man, need to do the same.

Yes, I have a spouse. But does that in itself limit the close relationship I’m allowed to have with my female friends?

The more I’ve read on the subject, the more I’ve discussed the subject with a variety of people, the more questions I create. And I haven’t found enough answers, at least ones to satisfy my own questions.

I’m intent on spending more time researching the role of friendship in my life. Specifically in my life as a married Christian man.

I’ll be looking more closely at the bonds of friendship between men like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Owen Barfield, and Charles Williams (The Inklings). Is their particular level of kinship even possible in our culture today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions on the topic of friendship. Please join the conversation in the comments and on social media.

I look forward to writing and sharing more on this topic. It is important to me. It should be important to all of us.