We live in an age of social networking and social media where peoples’ social security hangs on the thread of the next like or poke. We tweet, Skype, blog and hashtag. Newscasts involve the public by asking for feedback through social media. Even the State Department tweets on foreign policy.
This led me to question the depth of relationships we have in the realm of online anonymity. I examined the way I use social media and the influence I have, as well as others in the world, where we can push a button and have our thoughts read instantly by hundreds of people. The fact that you are reading this supports my supposition. I joined Facebook 5 years ago in an effort to stay connected with people from my many wanderings as a missionary and from my college days. It has been a wonderful way to do that, thank you Mark Zuckerberg.
I decided to conduct an online experiment. I posed two questions to my Facebook friends: 1). How many Facebook friends do you have? 2). How did you and I meet? I had two hypotheses: 1). My female friends would have more friends than my male friends. 2). I would find that the majority of my relationships started around church. This feedback was only from my Facebook friends, so the research is limited to my Facebook friends and 14% of those friends who responded.
My research proved that my first hypothesis, “females would have more friends than males” was not true. According to the feedback I was given, 13 of my male friends responded and had an average of 621 Facebook friends, 22 of my female friends reported an average of 569. I thought because women tend to be more relational than men that the opposite would prove to be true.
In this age of social networking where we define our friends by whether or not they like our reposts, we must re-examine what friendship really is. What is a friend? According to dictionary.com friend is defined: friend —n: 1. a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty; an intimate: 2. an acquaintance or associate.
I asked my 18 year old son what the word friend means to him. He recently graduated from high school, so I thought he would have some keen insight on the subject. He wisely said, “Someone you have a relationship with; someone you like to spend time with.” The first part of the statement sounded a lot like the dictionary definition. I was impressed. I asked him to explore further the second part about liking to spending time with the person. He said, “Some people are your friends because you are forced to spend time with them, like your class mates, but that is different from a real friend. A friend is someone you choose to spend time with.”
Proverbs 18:24 says “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Friendship defined by Jesus opens up new realms of understanding as opposed to online relationships. Embracing others as friends not only enhances people’s lives but teaches us things about ourselves. We are created for community. Stay tuned for part two of this blog to find out about the second part of my online experiment.
Written by Max L. Morton June 2014