I’ve got friends in high places. I’ve also got friends in low places, close places, far-away places, and everything-in-between-places. I’ve got old friends and new friends. Lately, it seems that new people are asking to be my friend just about every day. Some of my friends are actually family, does that count? I’ve got friends I haven’t seen since high school, and some of my closest friends have yet to become . . . friends.

Is social media redefining what it means to be a friend?

Now, more than ever, it’s easy to make, find, and keep our friends. A quick scan of my Facebook account shows that I’ve got 51 friends, which is pretty lame by FB standards. My daughter’s profile, by comparison, indicates that she’s much more popular than I am, boasting no less than 100 friends. I think that’s awesome, and only time will tell how many of them are in for the long haul. But I’m at a different place in my life, and I’ll gladly trade a hundred virtual friends for a dozen real ones.

When I was young, I usually had a best friend. The person so duly honored would change from time to time, but nonetheless, there was always an anointed one. On occassion, there was some rivalry over the matter, which in hindsight all seems pretty silly. As I grew older and got into high school, the landscape changed. People moved in packs, and being new to the school, there were only a handful of familiar faces.

I’d been in that situation plenty of times before, so I didn’t worry too much about it. Somehow, I’d find a way to make some new friends. This time around, my big break came in the form of a birthday invitation. It came most unexpectedly from a girl in my English class (I think it was English – it was 30 years ago!), and soon enough, other kids began to reach out to me as well. I didn’t know it at the time, but these were friends that I’d have for the rest of my life.

As a group we didn’t seem to fit any of the typical categories: the “popular” ones, the jocks, the geeks, the stoners, etc. We were a little bit of everything – a melting pot of the student body.  Through the years, we shared triumph and tragedy, humor and heartache, doing our best to figure out life and our place in this world. There were a lot of things we didn’t have, but we had each other and we stuck together.

Looking back, I have to say that we turned out pretty well. From our humble beginnings emerged an impressive collection of engineers, doctors, lawyers, teachers and business leaders. We’ve got families, mortgages, and kids of our own. But put us in the same room together, we’re still a bunch of clowns, and I absolutely cherish that.

Social media has made it easier to stay in touch, but it’s not the foundation of our friendship – only life experience can provide that. But I will say, this new medium has allowed me to find and reconnect with some old friends that I’d lost touch with, and that alone is pretty cool.

All of this leaves me to wonder, will our children experience friendship in the same ways, or will the lens of social media render indistinguishable the real from the imaginary?

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