Suburbia. We live in a place of cul-de-sacs and subdivisions. Our houses are nicely organized into smaller groups of houses (communities) within our larger master-planned communities. Our houses are designed facing each other or just mere feet next to each other. People move from the urban center to suburbia because of this utopian picture of community. However, reality comes crashing down with garage doors and yard divisions called privacy fences.
I just ran across this article that talks about how many of our facebook friends are people we really know, KNOW. I don’t want to come off sounding like one of those social media haters – because I’m not. I think there are some really great things that can be leveraged through social media. Most recently as I have gone through some health issues and surgery, I have been really blessed to see through facebook or twitter that people were praying for me. I have been able to reconnect with friends that I would have found no other way aside from social media. I have also engaged in some great conversations that have been enabled through these great twenty-first century staples. Birthdays… I haven’t even mentioned… how odd would it be not to feel all that birthday facebook love?
Since we have established the fact that I’m not a hater… I’ll let you into my struggle. We have chosen to live in master-planned communities designed to orchestrate relationships. This being the case, we live in a constant state of rushing into the garage so quickly the door artfully closes only moments after our car passes the little safety laser at the entrance. We might peek out long enough to grab our garbage cans off the curb only because we are scared of the HOA enforcer that drives around with nothing to do except for scribble our shortcomings and associate fees to those shortcomings. Yet with over 600 million users and each one spending over 15 hours per month on facebook we all have a plethora of “friends.”
It seems that with our growing busyness we are replacing real-life relationships with e-relationships. The definition of the word ‘friend’ has completely changed in regards to how it is used in our day-to-day language. When we refer to someone as a friend it could mean that we bumped into them in line at Taco Bell one day, made a passing connection and then found a friend request in our facebook inbox.
Do we really know what it means to navigate life in authentic relationships with other people? Can we be open with someone and let them into both our struggles and joys? Do we value caring for others? This busyness has created such a me-centric worldview that I am not sure we still know how to be friends. How many friends do you really have? I’m not talking about those e-relationships… but real friends?
Friendship is giving of yourself to someone else with their needs valued above yours. It is participating with others through their deepest struggles and their moments of greatest victory. True friendship demands proximity at crucial moments in life. A friend is someone who can see it on your face… or hear it in your voice… when the crucible of circumstance has been realized. A friend would recognize your voice and welcome your plea at any hour of the day or night. Most importantly, a friend is someone who has been on their knees praying with your name frequently on their lips.
How can you intentionally invest yourself in these types of relationships? Are you a true friend or have you settled for the false security established by those exaggerated numbers on our facebook profile? Are you willing to give the counter-cultural effort it will require to build true friends?