Define Friendship …

Jose Vilson Jose

“Add ____ as a friend.”

“Befriend ____”

“Accept or reject this friend?”

Social networks these days have utterly confounded the term “friendship.” OK, that and the growing ambiguity in romantic relationships in which “It is what it is” and “it’s complicated” have become acceptable labels for a relationship status. The term friend becomes even more confused when people don’t learn to categorize and prioritize. I hate to say it, but friends more often than not need to be boxed in before they can move out of that box.

Back when my understanding of friends was a little too permissive, I had friends left and right, and I tried too hard to keep them around, but eventually, I ended up suffering because they didn’t meet my standards, the little that I had. Then I had other friends who just wanted to remain friends when I was thinking that we were becoming more than that. Of course, that’s all types of awkward, but worth going through nonetheless. Then there’s the person you call a friend because you develop a really deep connection with them from the jump, and for a while, they’re the go-to person for every and anything, but after a while, they’re little more than a flame in the dark, ready to extinguish once the darkness becomes overwhelming.

What are friends for if they can’t teach you anything else besides what it means to be a friend? My friend and mentor Cynthia, who I wish I could mention by full name because she’s that awesome, showed me how her “Rings of Friendship” work. She presented this over 6 years ago, so excuse me if I just interpolate.

I’ve found myself using this model time and again with friends, and really, it’s saved a lot of time and energy worrying about whether or not I should pay certain people x amount of time when they pay me a minuscule a. Granted, my real life ring of friendship looks more like this:

Of course, within those friends, they each have a special interest they represent. Some are there for emotional support (tends to be the women) and some are there for parties and what I can’t call anything else besides male bonding. Some are good professional friends, but not good out-of-work friends. Some of my friends are good for going to parties, but as far as having deep and intricate conversation, never that. Sometimes it gets deeper than that, where I might favor a friend because I might just need someone to listen without necessarily finding direct solutions on the spot, while others are perfect for the latter.

Maybe what I find most interesting is that many of the people in that gold circle I’ve met on the Internet. I’ve probably met more than 100 people that I’ve interacted with at some point and time first through the World Wide Web. The irony that I’m finding good friends through a place I also feel is diluting the word doesn’t elude me. Yet, I also found that Facebook friends who I met in other venues first don’t even say hi in real life. I guess that’s why so many people only have their “true” friends added to them.

And I’ve heard many a mantra of what a real friend is. The friends-are-there-for-a-reason-season-lifetime doesn’t strike me as too deep anymore, and I don’t consider someone who got into jail with me a friend any more than the person who’s there bailing me out; I’d rather sleep on my bed than on a slab of concrete with a cell mate whose trying to sleep on me. I’m good. What good is a friend who sends you friendship e-mails all the time but never drops a line to say hi? What good is a friend that only wants you to plug their latest fad but never asks you how you’re doing? No, scratch that: what good is any friend that doesn’t want to know how you’re doing?

In turn, I always have this sense of who warrant my utmost attention and who doesn’t deserve all of that. Even when they don’t realize it, anyone who starts becoming less important in my life gets moved to the wayside, and leave room for people who really want it to come into my life. That golden spot in my ring of friendship is really hard to get into, as I’m just as comfortable riding solo as I am with an entourage of 50 or more. And like I’ve said before, I have 2000+ friends on MySpace, and 800+ friends on Facebook, and another 100+ spread across the nets, but I would most certainly call the majority of them acquaintances. Percentage-wise, only a handful make it into the “I’ll call you up if I need something” territory.

So I ask once again, what’s a friend? How do you define a friend?

jose, who gets by with a little help from mine …