What A Friend We Have In Facebook | The Buddy of Christ

T-Aim LogoAs I’ve recently posted, I’m enjoying using Facebook a lot. (Though for how long, with a big court case looming?)

One concern though: the nature of ‘friendship’.

I’m not sure what the etiquette is regarding friendship requests, but one thing is certain: you have to decide early on on some sort of policy about who you are going to be ‘friends’ with. Taking the whole thing fairly lightly, I’m pretty free-for-all. There are lots of people on my list who aren’t actually my friends, in the traditional sense. I’ve never met them. I probably never will. We have connected through this site… and that’s about it.

My concern then is really how sites like Facebook might profoundly affect the nature of friendship. Encarta defines a ‘friend’ as

1. somebody who has a close personal relationship of mutual affection and trust with another

2. somebody who has a casual relationship with another, for example, a business acquaintance

3. somebody who is not an enemy

4. somebody who defends or supports a cause, group, or principle

5. somebody who supports a charity or institution by donating time or money

On Facebook we have a complete mix of these definitions. Some people I have close personal relationships with. Some are just ‘not enemies’. Others are involved in mutual causes.

In an increasingly fragmented and atomized world, I wonder if we need a new word for my ‘number 1s’. Something more than ‘friendship’. I wonder if Facebook slightly cheapens all of these definitions, making it so easy to ‘be friends’, when true friendship is more difficult.

And I wonder too whether this impacts our other relationships, and, in turn draws more towards being a ‘buddy of Christ’, rather than part of a body, with all the blood and guts that entails.


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15 responses to “What A Friend We Have In Facebook | The Buddy of Christ”

  1. have you declined friendship to anyone yet? I’ve not…but did on behalf of my sister-in-law!
    There is an interseting tension being those who are part of my social network and those who are my friends. Most of my friends are not on facebook, but they’re still my friends, and alot of my friends on facebook are simply part of my networks.
    i therefore think that that facebook probably says more about the ‘buddy’ nature of networks rather than friendships.
    but it is fun!

  2. I agree with Ben – I see Facebook and MySpace as social networking tools that I use to promote books, causes, share ideas, etc. Some friendships did develop from using MySpace where we now communicate off site, and I see that happening with Facebook as well. Yes, I am fully aware of the pitfalls of communicating online and have put the necessary safeguards in place.
    I did interview someone for the Church Publishing book )(the book you’re in) who commented how the Internet has made it possible for people to get to know each other via their minds and ideas without judging someone based on their physical attributes. She noted that in one case, the man was drop dead gorgeous and she doubted the woman would have dared approach him had they met in person – they’re married with kids now. Yes, you can counter this with tons of creepy stories especially relating to minors — I’ve had some friends try to use Facebook and MySpace as a dating tool with disaterous results. (I do wonder though if they were using it as a social networking tool than a way to meet guys if they might have ended up meeting men as friends and then something else could have developed down the road.)
    What is interesting through over the years is that I’ve been able to develop closer relationships with people who have email than those who do not. This is especially true as I travel and my friends continue to leave New York City – given the changes in time zones and our respective work schedules, managing a phone call can be very tricky.

  3. No, I’ve not declined anyone yet! My only rule, as yet not needed, is to decline current students at my school.
    Actually, most of my ‘real’ friends aren’t on f/b, and those that are… well, we don’t really communicate much in that way.
    Perhaps they need some kind of friend ‘star rating’ like Amazon. Or would that just be too cruel?!

  4. I agree with Becky that FB/email can aid in simple relationship building, particularly when your I-miss-hugging-you friends are spread out between multiple time zones. Discretion is definitely needed in adding folks online as “amici”, particularly on psychotic and tacky Myspace. FB is headed in that direction, too. But I still encouraged my global cohort @ Fuller to join FB in order to stay better connected to one another as we part ways. Once I got the hang of it (and brushed off the nonsense apps), it definitely appeals to me more than email.
    Just picked up your book in Pasadena, Kester. Been looking forward to it. Will probably give it a quick blog review. Cheers.

  5. five star ratings??
    i already blushed at the option of having ‘top friends’

  6. Yeah – weirdly I’ve just had my first ‘top friend’ request. Sounds like friendship creep. We’ll then have ‘top top friends’ and then where’ll it stop?!

  7. thanks for making me a friend! ๐Ÿ™‚
    few of my ‘real’ friends are on facebook, too – and they never read my website. i love that.
    there’s an option in facebook where you can list people you don’t want to be able to find you on facebook. i’ve listed a couple of people there, because declining them would be problematic. i’m not sure how well that works, but it does calm my obsession about privacy…

  8. As always Cheryl makes some very insightful points – the key as I see it is to view Facebook (and to a much lesser extent MySpace-I made some critical contacts there, so I can’t dismiss it outright) as a social networking tool to exchange ideas where friendships “might” develop rather than places to make friends and get dates. I strongly encourage all my female friends not to list the year they were born and their relationship status and to block anyone they don’t want contacting them. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I lacked the hindsight I have now. So I doubt many people in this age range are taking the needed precautions to safeguard themselves.

  9. Kester, Kester…if you want to rescind our budding Facebook friendship, I completely understand! ๐Ÿ˜‰ But then we shall not be able to take long (in compressed time) virtual walks by the simulated sunset, pixels crunchy beneath our feet on the Web 2.0 beach!
    Whence shall our Second Life be?

  10. Mike, that sounds way too good to miss – let’s continue our low-res buddydom!

  11. Once again another all-male emerging church party. Thanks boys. Lovely.;)

  12. wow, here’s something- I’ve had someone turn down MY friend request. I don’t think I’m a creep.
    FB to me is like a parlor game. A fun way to inner-act. And it does have it’s unwritten social cues. If someone doesn’t want to play, then that’s okay.
    I don’t have any notoriety which would have me turning down the unknown masses. Does Brad Pitt have a FB page? I haven’t checked yet…. now that would be creepy!
    Does anyone think it really would replace face to face, side by side friendship?
    BTW Jesus doesn’t turn anyone’s Friend Request ๐Ÿ˜‰ If we’re not careful glib metaphors will abound.

  13. Susanna – I had someone I knew professionally turn down a friends request. At first I went – whoa but then I realized that I saved myself a lot of headache trying to connect when it’s not going to happen. I’m just now starting to really accept the fact that it’s impossible for ue all to like each other – though we are required to love each but that’s another post.
    I doubt Brad Pitt is on Facebook – the pseudo celebrity files seem to be on MySpace. But Brian McLaren is on Facebook – does that B name count?
    As a freelance writer, I see Facebook as possibly fullfilling the role of work buddies for those of us who don’t have 9-5 jobs. When I need to take a break, I often check Facebook and my blog reader so I can clear my mind and then get refocused again – if I was at a regular job, I might wander over to the office kitchen to get some coffee and chat a bit. That’s a vital social connection that I lost about a year and a half ago when I quit a part-time job to start writing full-time (no I’m far from rich but I don’t have the time to work another gig).
    Nothing replaces human contact – that’s why church will always have a place in society no matter how Second Life’d we get – we receive the bread and wine together in person. Online resources such as Facebook remind me just how globally interconnected we are – I am floored when I stop and realize how many friends I have made that I wouldn’t have known at all pre-Internet because we never would have connected.
    Jesus didn’t turn down Friends requests but he did make it clear what someone would have to do in order to be his friend (just ask the rich young man who went away hanging his head). And he did have a top Friends list as it were.

  14. and as you know, He commanded that we love one another (even if they refuse our ‘friend’ request) He says there too that we did not choose him, but He chose us! wonderful
    The English bible translation uses the word stranger for ‘the rich young man’

  15. just got third way, but not read your article yet…
    I’m struggling with facebook at the moment as old friends, whom i thought that i had forgotten are catching up with me! I’ve not got the heart to say ‘no’ to their friendship requests, so now I’m having to make polite conversation – this feels like confession – when i really don’t want to!