I enjoy the social networking sight that is popular right now. I get to keep up with my friends here in the town in which I live. I get to connect with friends who are hundreds or thousands of miles away. I get to connect with friends I had from over 40 years ago. I get to keep up with my family.
It is such an exciting feeling when you first set up your account and someone sends you a “friend request.” Someone wants to be MY friend! Nothing feels better. I want to break out in a refrain from the Carol King song “You’ve got a friend” or some Randy Newman song whose title escapes me now.
Sometimes you get suggestions for friends from the network. Perhaps it is because you have similar ‘likes’ that you have indicated on your information page. Sometimes other friends recommend friends to us. What goes on in the mind of someone who recommends a friend to another? “I think Joe will like Mark because I like Mark?” Or “I think Joe will like John because John is an Oakland Raider fan.” Or “I think Joe will like Chuck because they both like the best music ever conceived, Jazz.” Or “This person annoys me with requests for these silly games and I want to be ornery so I will hook them up.”
I love finding friends from elementary school. It is interesting to see how time and life has etched its mark on their faces like a malevolent cartographer. Then I imagine them wondering what my life must have been like to produce so many gray chin whiskers and a shoe-leather face. Time and gravity are not friends of youth.
I look at my ‘friend count’ and notice it is hovering around 350 friends. I might feel important. I might feel well connected. I might feel loved. But then I see someone else in my friend box has over 4,000 friends and I feel small. Then I wonder if I really have 350 friends. Is that even possible? Would I really feel comfortable calling them in the middle of the night if I were in trouble?
No. Maybe 50. Maybe 20. Maybe 10. Maybe 2. (I am not sure about one of those)
Someone once said, “A friend is someone who walks in when the whole world walks out.” I have found that to be true. Certainly only a small handful of friends would be there for you in dire circumstances. How do I know? Well, beyond my own experience there is the example of Jesus. All but one of his friends walked out when he went on trial. If Jesus, the third person in the Trinity can’t keep his friends, it should come as no surprise that Joe Chambers is bound to lose a friend or two along the way.
I remember the first time I went to see what a social networking friend was up to on their homepage and discovered that I was no longer their friend. I was hurt. They had “unfriended” me. I sent them a message asking what I had done to deserve such an ignominious classification. They said it was nothing I had done recently but they felt that it was awkward for their current friends to see that I was listed in their friend box based on the person I was eleven years ago. In some ways that made sense and I didn’t blame them. Still hurt though.
Then I noticed that intermittently I was being unfriended by friends in my close community. The only way to know this is to go looking for friends you haven’t heard from in a while and see that it says I need to request their friendship. But I thought I was! What happened?
I can explain most of them away as disgruntled church members. But at a deeper level, I wonder what message they are trying to send me? I laugh it off. I even post it on my status update: “Unfriended again!” I mock and make light of it. But truth be known, it never feels good to have someone you were once in relationship with say they no longer wish to be your friend.
In the old Lassie shows of the ‘50s and ‘60s there was always a moment at the end of the show when an adult would sit the little boy who owned Lassie on their knee or on the steps of the front porch and put a final moral or point to the drama of the episode. It usually started out, “So, you see Timmy…”
So, you see Joe… Social Networking is fun, but it is no substitute for face-to-face relationships; for it is in face-to-face and soul-to-soul relationships that bonds are forged and character is shaped. It is there we disagree with one another and find ways through it and remain vital friends. This is where I am challenged, changed and championed. To have a friend that never ever challenges my thinking is no friend.
My dog does that.
As iron sharpens iron, so one (friend) sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17