Best friends, virtual or not

I have 45 friends!

I must be popular. Perhaps I am empathetic, kind and supportive. Fun to be with, a great conversationalist, a wonderful pal.

After all, I have 45 friends … my new virtual friends, that is, on the Internet’s largest social network, – Facebook.

They are my fantom (sic) Facebook friends.

As a Zoomer, I was reluctant to embrace, what I perceive to be, the impersonal world of social networking. Although it revived her career, even Betty White mused, “Facebook is a huge waste of time.”

But, yes, I have finally succumbed to the pressures of dallying in the digital domain.

Facebook allows me to remain constantly connected day or night. I can communicate with my new buddies with a simple click of the mouse. I can chat with them online.

However, this technological world of interconnectedness has resulted in a huge disconnect as it has turned us into lazy friends.

I can receive an ongoing litany of the events that inform my virtual friends’ mundane lives complete with running commentary and photos.

The term “Facebook me” has taken on a life of its own, as it redefines the meaning of friendship and the way we relate to each other in a fast-paced and virtual world.

Ironically, the co-founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, completely lacked social skills. In fact, as told in the recently acclaimed movie, The Social Network, he had no real friends except one, who ended up suing him.

As a Zoomer, it has me reflecting on the meaning of friendship.

I remember as a teenager, devouring Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet … now that was cool. He stated “A friend is your needs answered.”

Do any of my Facebook friends answer my needs? I don’t even know who some of them are…

There were memories of singing Beatles songs off-key. A first broken heart. Newsy letters from home when I was living alone in Europe. Drinking Harvey Wallbangers and disco-ing until dawn. Comparing stories of the joys and angst of new motherhood as well as the stretch marks.

To me, a friend is someone who accepts me the way I am, with all my imperfections.

A friend is someone who hops on a plane from England to be with me and to comfort me during a difficult time.

A friend is someone who sits with me and just listens.

Friendship isn’t about whom you’ve known the longest. It’s about who came, and never left your side.

I am very fortunate to have both – friends I have known for 40 years who have never left my side, and new friends who inspire me and challenge me … a few who are even my Facebook friends.

So if you want to be my real friend, call me on the phone. Come and see me. Let’s sit down together and enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine. Let’s chat, interact and discuss issues. Let’s share a meal or a good book. Let’s laugh together or cry together.

If you are too busy to visit, write me a letter. You know, put pen to paper, seal it in an envelope and mail it. Don’t forget the stamp.

Of course, you can always Facebook me, but don’t be surprised if I am too lazy to respond.

Best friends forever … virtually, I can say I know who you are.

April Lewis is the local communications director for CARP, a national group committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada.’ She writes monthly.

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