I was reading a social media advice column today and one of the columnists made this statement:
"And the fact is Facebook has destroyed the meaning of the word 'friend.' 'Friend' used to mean ... I'll take a bullet for you, I'll take care of your kid or, you know, things with meaning — and now it just means 'connected to'."
This statement really struck me. I am one of those old-fashioned people who still thinks of "friend" in the traditional sense - as in, I like a person, enjoy conversing with them, care about their lives and events within their lives. So, my FB friend list is actually fairly small and there are even a few people on there that I need to "purge" because they once had the potential to be my friend but due to whatever reasons are no longer someone I want to put energy & effort into. In contrast, Urban Cowboy's FB friend list has a gazillion people on it and we are always having a conversation about why he has so many FB friends and if he even actually physically knows these people. I guess he's more modern than me.
The reason I think this new definition of friend really unsettles me, though, is because we (society) have not yet come up with a word to replace "friend" to more properly define the difference between actual friend vs. FB connection (or name any other social media device). How long, I wonder, will it take for us to come up with a new vocabulary to teach our children that a virtual connection to an individual does not translate to a person you have a relationship with that you can share your joys/sorrows with or someone that can come to you and seek your help or advice or someone who, darnit, you just enjoy hanging out with (gasp!) in-person? I want Little Man and Urban Cowbaby to know that there is a difference and that the difference is very important when when they are conducting themselves on-line & in-person and as they navigate the world on ever changing terms.