November 4, 2010

Are You A Virtual Friend?

In the very week the long awaited Facebook movie hits the big screen they introduced a new ‘add on’ application to their platform. With this new 3rd party application Facebookers  have access to what can best be described as, a viral ‘de-friend detective’!

Officially called the 'Facebook Friend Checker', this sneaky new mechanism allows users to regularly scour the network for Facebook friends who (for reasons of their own) suddenly and unceremoniously ‘de-friend’ them without grace, for-warning, or even so much as a passing farewell.

No longer can so called ‘friends’ slip unnoticed and undetected from our ‘friends list’, slinking quietly and surreptitiously off into the cyber night. Not with the de-friend detector! With this handy little tool the de-friended are instantly notified and alerted as to the exact time, identity, and date of deletion by their said ‘Facebook friend’.

So finally, we’ll know!

But what then? What do we do with all this newfound knowledge?
And what does it mean?
We’ll know their identity, sure, but all we’ll really have is a new array of unanswered questions and speculative curiosities to plague our troubled and insecure minds…

Why did they de-friend me? Was it something I said? I did?
Was it my profile pic? My ‘Super-Poking’? My constant Farmville invitations?

And then there’s the ultimate question, the unease and uncertainty left lingering uncomfortably in the back of our consciousness…we’re they really my friend, or just a virtual one?

Ironically, it’s the study of friendship, both virtual and real, that lies at the centre of the movie about Facebook,“The Social Network”, based on the life of its founder and developer Mark Zuckerberg.

During the course of the movie, it’s Zuckerberg’s inability to master, or even begin to come to terms with his own jealousy, resentment, intellectual pride and social ineptitude, that lead him to successfully alienate and betray the only two people in his life who had enough grace and emotional generosity to befriend him, his now ‘ex’ girlfriend Erica Albright, and his best friend and co-developer Eduardo Saverin.

Without being a total spoiler for those who haven’t yet seen the movie, perhaps the saddest moment and probably the most telling, is the moment Zuckerberg clocks over his millionth Facebook member is at the exact moment he loses his one true friend, his only friend.

At that one moment his virtual network just climbed 
into to the millions,
his real network plummeted to zero.

The smartest man in the room suddenly finds himself - the only man in the room.

And perhaps the greatest irony of all, the founder of the world’s most successful friendship network becomes renowned for being its one friendless member. This sole cyber star finally gets his wake up call to do some serious soul searching.

Although the movie is about Zuckerberg, it can’t but provoke us to reflect and re-examine our own friendships, the nature of them, the value we place on them and the way we deal with them.

Thankfully movies and discussions on the pros and cons of social networks are not our only source of reflection on the matter. The scriptures have a lot to say about friendships, about their importance, their capacity to influence us, and how to conduct ourselves appropriately and lovingly within them.

The book of Proverbs in particular has a lot to teach us about what it means to be a real friend to others. It also teaches us how to distinguish real friendships from virtual ones.

In stark contrast to the double-dealing, self-serving expediency with which Sorkin’s portrayal of Zuckerberg deals with friendships, Proverbs teaches us that true and genuine friendship is one that is godly, wise, generous and constant.

That a real friend is…

* Not a ‘fair weather friend’, but someone who is faithful in both the good times and the bad:

“A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity”

* Someone who doesn’t flatter us, or stroke our ego, but whose words are honest, sincere, straight and true:
“Whoever flatters his neighbour
is spreading a net for his feet”

* Whose love covers a multitude of sins and avoids repeating hurts:

“He who covers over an offense
promotes love
but whoever repeats the matter
separates close friends”

* Whose sincere and wise counsel is considered more delightful to us than the choicest aroma:
“ Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel”

* Where even the wounds of their friendship are transparent and trustworthy:

“Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses”

By contrast a virtual friend is one who…
* Betrays our confidences (20:19)
* Is tactless and unfeeling to our circumstance (25:20)
* Hides behind humour as a means of inflicting hurt (26:18-19)
* Is dishonest and fickle in friendship (25:18-19)
* Can ensnare and corrupt others with their shortness of temper (22:24-25)
* Can be unyielding in their willingness to resolve issues of conflict or hurt (18:18-19)

Because of the power and force of friendships, real or virtual, the scriptures exhort us to choose those who would be our friends with wisdom and with great care. In the words of 1 Cor 15:33 “bad company corrupts good character”, the wrong kind of friends can be a corrupting and damaging influence on our lives, just as our own ungodliness or poor or immature approach to friendship can negatively impact the lives of others.

Proverbs reminds us that if we are to be serious about learning wisdom, (including the wisdom of friendship) then we’re to walk with those who are wise…

“He who walks with the wise
 grows wise,
but a companion of fools
 suffers harm”.

True wisdom of course will tell us that there are no perfect friends, including us!
There’s only ONE who’s perfect, whose love is never failing, who’s always constant, merciful and true.
The one who promises never to ‘de-friend’ us.
Who befriends the friendless.
And ultimately,"laid down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13)

And that’s the perfect one of whom we sing –

“What a friend we have in Jesus,
ALL our sins and grief’s to bear”.

What more could we want or ask for than that!

Of course, John also reminds us in the very next verse, that we’ll know we’re friends of Christ when we in turn “do what he commands” (14), and that includes learning to be a real friend to others, not a virtual one!


Verina said...

Very well said Sarie! I love keeping up with friends on FB but find that some people have become collectors of friends. It has become a contest to see who has the most friends. They have become a hobby..."I collect friends on FB"
I now have people on here that I wish I didn't and even worse are the comments from some of their friends, which I have had to block or hide.. But I haven't de- friended anyone yet. I know some one who announced that they had had a spring clean of their "Toxic" friends. I wonder how those people felt when they discovered that not only were they de friended but the rest of the FB community was being told they were toxic. Unfortunately I wasn't one of them and I continue to try to have a ministry role with this person. I have discovered that for a social network it can at times be very anti social, and for a place where we meet friends, can be very unfriendly.
God Bless

Ruth said...

well said Sarie, I totally agree with what you wrote and found myself nodding all the way through it!

Steph said...

Sar! What a ripper post!! Thank you. P.S You are a wonderful example of a true proverbs-like friend. P.P.S You didn't attach our fav YouTube link of 70s "friend in Jesus" song...

Sarie King said...

Hahaha...thanks Steph! yes, why didn't I think of that link!
what a shocker!

Debby said...

Very good Sarie, once again. I am grateful to God for the Internet so that I can be edified and encouraged by your friendship.

Ros said...

Great post Sarie! Essential reading for all FBers, but especially for my 15 year old Eloise. I will MAKE HER READ IT when she gets home from school :)

H. said...

Great article - relevant, challenging, great writing.

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