What is Friendship Worth?
I only became involved in facebook because of my son Owain. He was wanting to find a way of hooking up with his friends easily while we were on an extended exchange in the USA a few years ago and signed up for Facebook, on the understanding that I would sign up too as his "friend" and thus be able to keep tabs on what he was involved in. However, he rarely used his account, and I didn't touch it at all for the first 2 months... then whilst checking my emails in the US, one day there were 4, then 14, then 20 then over 70 emails arrived in my inbox with the senders asking to be my friend... I was very discerning about my acceptances, restricting them to people I actually knew... whether they were friends, or I'd even talked to them, in the real world was only a secondary concern. My wife, coming later to the party, is much much more discerning... if you are on her list you're part of a relatively select band.
Whether these can REALLY be termed friendships, however, is debatable... And this was emphasised for me recently when our Youthwork Intern (who is much more on top of these things than I am) told my wife of a recent promotional campaign by Burger King on Facebook which offered a free whopper for every 10 friends you "unfriended" during the promotion. Now Facebook didn't like being associated with this and had the page taken down, and you can understand why... What sort of a Facebook Friend wants to know that their friendship is worth one tenth of the price of a BK Whopper? But I suppose, following the adage that no publicity is bad publicity BK's work was done by the time the page was taken down, and the fact that some time later people like me are still blogging about it will keep their name in front of the public.
But is that what a facebook friendship adds up to - about 34 pence worth of ground beef and genetically altered salad vegetables on a soggy bap?
It's not just on facebook that friendship is cheap these days... we do not invest enough time in developing and nurturing real friendships... Sometimes that's because of hectic work schedules... sometimes because we're spending too much leisure time staring at a screen in the corner of the room or on our desks. But friendships are important and should be encouraged and held onto...
The Bible isn't unequivocally positive about friendship, indeed one Proverb could have been written for those who indescriminately accumulate facebook friends:
A righteous man is cautious in friendship, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
Proverbs 12:26 (ANIV)
Proverbs 12:26 (ANIV)
but the normally gloomy writer of Ecclesiastes does remind us
If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no-one to help him up!
Ecclesiastes 4:10 (ANIV)
I have reason to be thankful for facebook and it enabling me to reestablish friendships that I had, shamefully let slip away... But virtual friendship is still only a poor substitute for real face to face contact between flesh and blood friends, preferably over a coffee or another legal drug of choice.