Solid, safe, dependable friends are as basic to our well-being as food, water, and shelter. Yet their definition has become one of lifes mysteries.
Definition of friend
1 a: one attached to another by affection or esteem
She's my best friend.
Definition of acquaintance
1a: the state of being acquainted
They had a long-standing acquaintance.
b: personal knowledge : FAMILIARITY
had no acquaintance with the facts of the case
2a: the persons with whom one is acquainted
b: a person whom one knows but who is not a particularly close friend
is a casual acquaintance
Friend (noun and verb)
Definition of Friend
A “Facebook Friend” may or may not be someone with whom you have ever met or interacted with other than requesting that he or she be added to your network or that you confirmed that he or she be added to your network.
Ask anyone to describe what being friends means and they’ll likely stammer or get that glazed-over look.
Defining friendship is no easy task because we all have different interpretations and expectations. We’re also the result of our previous friend experiences. Good or bad, they left an impression. If we’ve only known “so-so” quality friends, we’re more apt to describe our idea by what we’ve experienced. Often, it's easier to define what friendship isn’t. So, what remains ends up being our hopeful definition that we keep looking for in others.
The internet has turned our idea of what friendship is on its head. Friend has gone from noun to a global verb in the span of 15 years thanks to skillful marketers and the advent of Facebook in 2004.
Even though it would have been more realistic if Facebook labeled people “acquaintances” instead of “friends,” the word acquaintance doesn’t have the same pull on our heartstrings. We only know these associates by the construct we met under (e.g. Facebook). We must be plugged in to see their name, someone’s images, and whatever scant personal life story they chose to project (real or fake). That describes the acquaintance level of friending.
Real world vs. virtual world
An acquaintance in the real world is someone you know only surface details about and vice versa. You recognize each other’s face in public settings and feel safe giving a casual hand wave of acknowledgement. Most likely you don’t know their partner or kids’ names, life routines, where they live, personal history, or their favorite “anythings.”
Likely you only see them in those same public settings. Your conversations are short sentences on general public knowledge topics that everyone can participate in. Very little personal info gets divulged or exchanged…aka…small talk. You only ever run into them public places like a book signing, classes, shops, parties, or gallery opening, etc.
It’s mentor time
It’s normal to want to impress each other, too. It’s a time when you’re both trying to figure each other out. Some content will position them as the mentor while other topics will prove you are the expert. In healthy relationships, you take turns back and forth sharing knowledge on the topic.
The goal is to use small talk to uncover these commonalities and quickly feel at ease. Our guard wall comes down a little more with each discovery. Commonality of values is key and you can even bond over things that you both like or dislike.
Even knowing someone in common can provide a tiny, but immediate, sense of safety with them. If we have a person in common, that new person must be like us…somehow.
Thumbs up, hearts, and flip-offs
It’s human nature to stay guarded until we find sacred common ground. A handful of thumbs ups, hearts, emojis and chit-chat a few times a week doesn’t really move the needle out of the acquaintance zone. Not commenting on someone’s post can even be interpreted as a flip-off and misunderstood.
Every friend you’ve ever had began at this level, but real friendships can only evolve over time. In repeated exchanges with them you learn more about who each other is, what values are key, and what interests you both have. Knowing all that means you can decide how that person can fit into your life.
It can take a couple of years to make a true best friend (or love interest) depending on how fast you can move through the stages of compatibility, transparency, and vulnerability. Deep and meaningful friendships take all the same efforts that a serious romantic relationship does.
Some believe that 200 hours on average are needed to achieve BFF status. So 30-minutes a week in a totally non-private social media setting with strangers judging your every keystroke simply falls way short.
Reunited and it feels so good
However, social media is great for reuniting long lost friends, and setting the stage for future friends to meet in real life, because you’ve already figured out you have a few things in common to justify giving it effort. We rely on real friends even more after major life transitions like divorce, retirement, relocating, and empty nesting as we age.
Meeting in person lets you focus on each other’s company with all your senses. That speeds up the knowing process. It’s the only way you’re going to develop a long-term real friendship that becomes your safety-net without question. That reliability truly is what everyone wants deep down. All the other perks are the cherries on the top.
If you find you’re a little short on safety-nets these days, just reach out and take me up on my free 30-minute Friendship Clarity Call and we’ll fix that in no time.
If you've enjoyed this, please leave a comment and tell me what your takeaway was. Always feel free to share the goodness on social media, too.
Founder, Muse, & Chief Friend Instigator
I'm in my element when I'm exploring thoughts of this challenging topic of female friendships. Sometimes things spill out into the real world and end up here in this blog,
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