Earlier this morning over breakfast, my parents and I got into a discussion about what it means to have friends. The conversation stemmed from an earlier question my niece asked: is man meant to have friends? After the conversation between my parents and myself, I thought about what the word friends mean and how people’s definitions and uses of it affects our society.
With Facebook a lot of us have friends. Most of us have friends we either don’t talk to very often, or haven’t seen or spoken to in years. I am guilty of this, and I know other people are too. I personally have over 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, I talk to maybe, MAYBE, 200 of them on a semi-regular basis. Now, this isn’t a good thing or a bad thing. It does make me think about what someone means when they say they are friends with this person; are they acquaintances, close friends, work colleagues? No one uses these specific terms in casual conversation, especially in college, so I am still left this with hanging question of what does it mean to be friends with someone.
I see the merits in calling everyone a friend; it’s simpler and moves the conversation along. My mom made the point that in today’s era, the word “friends” has become an umbrella for every human interaction you have. I actively try to differentiate between acquaintances, someone I know through class and my close friends. It gets tiring and I can forget sometimes.
However, I had never thought about how much pressure this word puts on kids in younger grades. With my hope of becoming an elementary school teacher, thinking about the effect it has on a first grader when you say friend was astounding. What do they consider a friend? If their teacher makes it seem like such a big deal to their parents that a child doesn’t have friends, how does that child feel? In high school groups and cliques exist so people don’t feel lonely. It’s a little absurd when I think about it now, three years into college, but it’s very true. Think Mean Girls.
The college experience is one where you hang out with the people you see and have common interests in. For the longest time during my freshman year, I felt a huge amount of pressure to seek out friends and people to hang out with. I never really thought about the fact that they would come to me naturally once I got involved on campus. I know that now that I am starting my senior year in the fall. I can confidently call the people I live with, the people I sat next to in class everyday, and the people I work with on the various clubs and organizations on campus my friends. Everyone else I like to put them in another umbrella: acquaintances.
I still wonder how this can be explained to a first grader, but for now, I will be satisfied with my group of closer friends I have common interests with and a large amount of acquaintances or former classmates on Facebook.