I rarely look at my own Facebook wall (or timeline or whatever Zuckerberg’s minions are calling it today). Why would I? Think about it; I have already lived whatever it is that is posted there, and I wrote most of it. The other day, though, I looked at my wall for some reason or another, and – of course – something caught my eye.
I had hit 900 friends.
I was shocked at first and then a bit overwhelmed. That turned into glee and then curiosity at whom held the honored spot of 900. I immediately went to look and discovered that #900 was not someone I had ever met in person but rather was a popular blogger whose friendship I had requested.
And she had accepted!
I did a little party dance in my office, smiled at the screen, and immediately thought, “This will make a great blog post.” That thought was followed by the voice of my son (in my head as he was a good boy and was in school) who said, “All we ever hear is blog, blog, blog.” And then another voice of doubt, “If you ask her, she is going to say no.”
But I had already asked her something – to be my Facebook friend – and she had said yes, so why wouldn’t I ask her if I could blog about it?
An aside: If I am to name someone specifically in a blog post, I only do so when they know and agree (besides my family…I might need to think about that…). So this post is proof that not only did I ask, but she also said yes!
Back to blogging business: the 900th friend incident made me think of a few things in more depth than I had before.
#1: Our world is not small anymore thanks to the internet and social media.
I knew this and have experienced the joys of this. I am able to stay connected with my missionary friends in Japan and Africa as easily as I could if they were three hours away from me. This is thanks to Facebook. I hope it helps ease the burden for them of being far away from family. I am able to stay connected with friends all over the country and the world because of Facebook. I hear about births, deaths, weddings and funerals, and see pictures of little people turning into big people.
#2: The internet can expand our friendship circles.
Perhaps this is obvious to some, but not all 900 Facebook are those whom I know personally. While I caution against the rage to round up friends as if they were votes of popularity (the internet is a dangerous, you know), expanding our world and networking with those who are friends of friends has many benefits. While I have not met all of my friends face-to-face, I am glad to pray for those who are ill or struggling, to laugh and celebrate major life events, and to benefit from “knowing” someone when there is a need.
On many blogs that I frequent, community has grown from the comment section.
My 900th friend – Heather Kopp – writes mostly about alcoholism, addictions, and staying sober, but the community that has grown from the comment section is truly about being human and struggling with all of the things that humans do…well, just one – sin. She provides a safe place with a bit of anonymity for the entire online world, and – in doing so – she ministers in the same way that an AA meeting, a Bible study, or a hair salon (think Steel Magnolias) ministers…she just has not met most of the crowd.
Marilyn – my “in the flesh” friend (meaning that I knew her in person before reading her blog or being her friend on Facebook) – writes about all things one could consider but does so in a way that invites others into the conversation. Her passion is building cross-cultural and cross-faith understanding while holding fast to her own faith. She also has frequent posts about being a third culture kid (growing up outside of the but now living in the USA). Her comment section floods daily with thoughts from around the world, and I am quite certain she calls many of them friend.
Do I think that online friendship should replace “in the flesh” friends? Not at all.
However, the internet is here, and there are some great things that have come from it. While a good and long laugh with my friends at Applebee’s on Sunday night could not have been replaced by a comment section on a blog, there are moments when someone’s written words speak to our hearts and give us strength to keep going. And that is worth all of the downsides that the internet has brought.
What do you think?