It is one of my favorite exchanges from the classic movie, Tombstone.
“Doc, you should be in bed. What the hell are you doing this for anyway?” -Creek Johnson
“Wyatt Earp is my friend.” -Doc Holliday
“Hell I’ve got lots of friends.” – Creek Johnson
“I don’t.” – Doc Holliday
Our technology filled world has changed the way that we use certain words and their meaning. If you do a Google search for the word “cloud”, the only reference to the white things in the sky is the dictionary definition. Otherwise it’s advertisements and references to gigabytes of storage space that is elsewhere. This is not the first time that this has happened in the history of language. It actually happens all the time. The technological cloud doesn’t make the sky cloud any less of a cloud. Both have meaning in their own right. I do fear for the word “friend” though.
My fear is not that the word will only mean “people that you relate with mainly online” but rather that the word is becoming devalued. It is common for people to have hundreds of “friends” online and this is great. Keeping relations with people from great distance and from other life periods is an amazing advancement. The concern is that all of these tiny and relatively “easy” relationships will make true, closer and more “difficult” relationships seem like too much work. It’s easy to become intoxicated in the numbers game of friends. Having more of something, does not particularly make life richer. Perhaps even, the collection of a maximum number of “friends” might just mean that the collector doesn’t truly have any. The word starts to lose all meaning when it is applied to basically everyone.
For me, I’d rather go the route of Doc Holliday. Going all in on the people who truly matter. Having those few but special people in life that you’re willing to go into war with (figuratively or literally). Those types of bonds make us stronger people and better humans. So have a social network by all means! But never lose sight of the difference between your FRIENDS and your “friends”. No matter how far the internet has the ability to reach, it is a worthless tool if it’s use means that no one ever touches your soul. If the connection that you feel to the important people in your life is as weak as the Wifi at the local coffee shop, it might be time to double down.
Have a great day with your friends!