How Do I Friend Thee? Let Me Count the Ways…

elephant_friend_social copyIn second grade, our class had a new student named Brooke. Brooke had just moved into our little Midwestern suburb from a magical faraway land called Texas. Instantly, she was a shiny new object that had everyone’s attention. On her first day of school, she exited the bus at my stop and I learned she lived just a few houses down from mine. I invited her over to play outside with my new red ball (the 1987 version of an iPad), and within ten minutes she announced, “we should be best friends” and I agreed that we should. We keep in touch to this day. This was when friendships were simple.

Fast forward twenty-five years and another friend of mine stops by my desk and frantically announces, “there are too many ways to be friends with you!” She had obviously just gotten my Yelp notification. After a quick mental scan of my numerous virtual little black books, I realized she was right. She follows me on Twitter and Instagram, we are friends on Facebook, she subscribes to my blog, we’re connected on Foursquare, we’re networked on LinkedIn, and we spend a good deal of time together in the physical world being actual, real-life friends. I guess asking her to read reviews of the places I eat when I’m with her was taking our relationship one step too far.

Friendships at their core are simple. You stumble upon someone with shared interests, a shared sense of humor, or sometimes just a shared bus stop, and you make a connection. As time passes, the relationship evolves, and eventually settles itself into a category, like: best friend, good friend, old friend, work friend, Christmas-card friend or I-only-call-you-when-I-need-to-borrow-your-truck-friend.

Then add to the mix the “friends” you don’t talk to but whose kids you consistently see pictures of, “friends” whose opinions you trust about where to eat, “friends” whose feet-on-the-beach photos you always courteously “like,” and “friends” whose playlists you steal and you realize your friendship ecosystem is monstrous.

Navigating a social labyrinth that extends from our real to our virtual worlds practically requires a manual – a hierarchy of who we let into each facet of our social lives. Subconsciously, most of us already have established this set of rules. Here’s mine:

I know you and think you’re awesome: LinkedIn, Instagram, reality
You are close friends, family, respected colleagues, and acquaintances who take amazing photos of cheeseburgers. We are probably also connected on other networks out of perceived obligation.

I know you and don’t have much of an opinion on you: Facebook, Foursquare
You’re my fifth grade boyfriends, college drinking buddies and anyone I ever played Barbies with. I may not have talked to you since 1994 but I’m ok with you seeing pictures of my dog and knowing that I’m two bars shy of a Crunked badge.

I don’t know you, but think you’re awesome:  Yelp, Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest
You’re hilarious, insightful, clever and creative and I feel awesomer by virtual osmosis. Your witty posts, irreverent critiques and shrewd use of popsicle sticks is inspirational. You can come over and play with my red ball anytime.

I don’t know you and I’m ok with that: Google+
We’re just not there yet, but let’s hang out and see where this relationship goes.

With our tight circle of friends extending into the gazillions, there are friends whom we keep close, and others we just keep. How do you keep your digital black books straight? What is your screening process for social networking? How do you decide who to let in?

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About WhiteElephantInTheRoom

I'm an 80s music lover, traveling junkie, mac & cheese connoisseur, amateur wine snob, party-planning priestess and Chicago transplant living in Southern California. I find adventure in the everyday and have a unending compulsion to write about it. Hope you enjoy reading my mind!
This entry was posted in 80s, Commentary, Family, Friends, Humor, Social Media and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to How Do I Friend Thee? Let Me Count the Ways…

  1. I wanna play with your red ball 🙂

  2. Nice one, as always… I have almost 5000 facebook friends, maybe 40 I know well, another hundred or so I have met. But it is simply that “follow me” spirit you get when you are a dj. One day Ill invite them all over for dinner, and see who plays with the ball.

  3. logandolsen says:

    I was literally thinking this yesterday about two guys of gone out drinking with twice now but I’m not friends with on Facebook. I don’t know why it suddenly matters, but I feel like my fb circle is slowly closing off to feature only people from college and back. Who knows? And does it matter? Awesome post, as always tho. 🙂

  4. MaximumWage says:

    Damn you don’t know me and you think I’m awesome. So you’re saying theres a chance! YEsssss…

  5. traciegila says:

    I was just saying to my friend (real live school friend) yesterday that I always liked having parties where I would invite all my different friends: work friends, school friends, uni friends, family friends, family, neighbours, etc because it reflected me and I like everyone being together and meeting because italk about everyone to everyone all of the time. I don’t see that happening these days….

  6. Love this and I’m honored to be in the “I don’t know you but htink you’re awesome” circle. At least I think I’m in that circle. Just don’t burst my bubble so close to Christmas. Anyway, I’m usually a hard sell when it comes to humor and you always make me laugh. But something about the red ball story really put a smile on my face… Must be the tequila.

  7. cheriedear says:

    Hmmm never thought of catergorizing my friemds..

  8. mrdinosaursaysrawr says:

    Hi, I have just discovered you and am loving your posts! This is actually a really interesting one to me, as I recently halved my number of facebook friends. I’m due to graduate university this year, and one day the fact that I had literally everyone from my year in high school just annoyed me too much, and I deleted everyone apart from those I actually speak to. Today one of the few remaining school friends suggested I write a blog about school, and I thought ‘yeah, what a good idea; I’ll ask everyone to contribute their memories…. Oh wait’. So maybe it’s a good idea not to be too hasty with the delete button.

    On the other hand, keeping people on your facebook just because I wanted to occasionally shove my nose into their life is something I just couldn’t do any longer. My categories are pretty much the same as yours, except I use facebook for the people I know, both awesome and not so. I don’t connect with anyone I don’t know.

  9. Hope Newby says:

    You know how you go from your overpacked closet and swear you have nothing to wear, then to your bulging refrigerator/freezer combo and swear there’s nothing to eat? It’s the same with social media … cram-packed with “friends” and yet I swear I can’t find a friend. What is the definition of a friend anyway? There’s a blog idea for you, funny girl 🙂

  10. claudiabette says:

    I have not one real person friend. I don’t say that to get sympathy. I say that because like your post says, we are all stuck in this virtual friend world. I have people I keep in contact with through all those mediums but not one flesh and blood friend.
    I’m enjoying your blog 🙂

    • I’m so glad you enjoy my blog! It is amazing how easy it is to stay “connected” to people through these mediums. It’s often fun to meet people in person after you’ve been virtually spending time together for years.

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