A friend indeed

Friends?
Friends?

I was having a cup of coffee with Jane Teresa the other day—a not infrequent pleasure—when, on my way back from a loo visit, someone stopped me to say, hello.

‘I was talking to a friend of yours last week …’ the conversation went. It was a propitious encounter. The person who waylaid me wanted to write a book and had heard that I did book coaching.

There was something about that encounter that kept nudging my mind over the next couple of days before it finally bubbled to the surface and I got it. The simple, everyday term, friend, had been flagged deep in my grey matter as something quite intriguing and requiring further consideration.

Facebook?
Facebook?

What or who is a friend? Only ten years ago, it was simple. A friend was someone you knew rather well, probably someone you trusted, and a person you had known for a considerable time. You may have referred to them as a pal, buddy, chum, mate, or comrade. You may even have given them the most exalted title of best friend. For the next tier down in intimacy, you may have used the term acquaintance, associate, contact, or colleague. Everything was pretty well defined, wasn’t it? So what has changed?

The phenomenon of the 21st century is social networking—a method of expanding social and business contacts through connecting with others. Yes, social networking has been around since humans began to communicate, but the Internet has recently taken the game to an entirely new level. I’m playing it right now just writing this blog—but you know that. And then along came Facebook.

Facebook, so the legend goes, was originally designed for college students by Mark Zuckerberg in a fit of pique, and the rest, as we know, is recent history. Apart from all the arguments for and against, what is now an institution until the next best thing comes along is a very friendly place. There are 500 million active users with fifty percent of them logging on every single day. The average user has 130 friends. Aah, those friends.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

I have friends on Facebook I have never met and probably never will. I have friends on Facebook I don’t even communicate with except to like, tag or poke from time-to-time and, usually, not even that. So do I log on? Yup, every single day.

In a single stroke of his keyboard, Mark Zuckerberg destroyed the meaning of one of the English language’s oldest and most clearly understood words. We need to find a replacement. Any ideas?

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