Friends have been on my mind lately. I'm thinking not only of specific friendships, but especially about the overall concept.
What is "friendship", anyway? I know I've written about this subject from time to time, but for some reason it's in my head and heart more often these days.
Maybe I have been contemplating this because of my increasing use of Facebook. I realize the hot social media website has its problems, and users need to be careful about sharing too much personal information. But it does offer an interesting, effective platform for staying connected with family members and other key people.
Then there are all of those other "friends." At this writing, I have more than 2,611 Facebook "pals." No, I cannot claim that I know every one of them personally. Nor should I. But the group is usually pretty like-minded on issues and events of the day. That's where the fun comes in. I love sharing news updates, thoughts on what we're talking about on my radio shows and occasional fairly useless but fun tidbits. It gets instant reaction and ongoing commentary. It's quite a crowd I have on Facebook, and larger than many churches, so I figure it's a wonderful platform for voicing opinion and sharing faith and values.
Occasionally online updates lead to arguments, and that's part of friendship, too. Friends don't always agree on everything, every day. Sometimes friends aren't friendly at all, and relationships need to be cut off. Facebook does make "un-friending" much easier than jettisoning people in the real work. One click and it's done. Yes, that can cause some guilt as well.
Facebook can also be a colossal waste of time. The same goes for Twitter. Of course, I'm on both of the web portals (@marklarsonradio) and not nearly max'ed out on connections, yet.
So many more "friends" to meet! But being a good steward of each day's hours must be considered, too.
If you use social media, it's crucial to use it wisely. You don't want to have too much personal information posted, leading to identity theft and stalkers. (Parents also need to restrict all of what their children do online.) We also have to remember that a casual connection online doesn't mean "friend" in the true definition of the word. But I do believe it's important to be in the new media mix, knowing what's out there in technology and adding to the voices coming from those of us who believe in a Christian worldview. Being "in the world, but not of the world" certainly applies here.
Contemplating the Facebook community of "friends" has helped me think about others more often, and care more deeply about my closest personal friendships (many of whom aren't online at all).
A little isolated
It was more than 20 years ago when I shared with my wife a nagging concern: I had all sorts of acquaintances, but (with a couple of exceptions) no real, deep friendships. After more discussion and prayerful consideration, I was inspired (thanks, Mrs. Larson) to make an effort to cultivate strong relationships.
As I take inventory of my life since that conversation, it's exciting to see what God has done, bringing so many people in our lives. These are folks from all walks of life, including a fair share of personalities of some notoriety. As friendships have grown deeper, the more it's evident that everyone is still the same, no matter what their status in life: created by God. Eventually, on this earth anyway, we're all "terminal," depending on how long it is until Christ's return.
So life goes on and time flies. Maybe that's the real issue here.
Years speed by and friends start to fade away. When I talk with my parents it seems they always have a memorial service to attend.
Those of us from the Baby Boom start checking newspaper obits more often, and the ages of many who are remembered seem younger and younger.
So what's the lesson here? Solid friendship takes work, like any relationship. It all has to be built on truth and honesty, tempered by biblical admonitions to be tuned in to needs, laughing with those who laugh and crying with those who mourn. And growing healthy, encouraging friendships is something that can't wait.
If we use social media correctly and carefully, with the right motivation, it can help us treasure our closest friendships.
One more thing: This subject reminds me of the Proverb noting "A man of many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." It's key to keep everything in perspective and right relationship, never losing our focus on Jesus … the best friend anyone can have. And we don't need Facebook to get in touch with Him.
Larson is a veteran Southern California radio/television personality and media consultant. He can be heard daily in San Diego on KCBQ 1170AM from 6 to 9 a.m., and on KPRZ 1210AM from 2 to 4 p.m. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published, March 2011