A recent article in the New York Times reports on the progress of the move to re-define friends. The-is re-defining has evolved, as many of you know, from the practice of a well-known computer destination that suggests one should "friend" another person. And there is a metric associated with this. (Metric, itself once a noun naming a system of measuring things, is now used to mean the collecting of numbers of any system or value that the user compiles.)
Becoming a friend, or "friending," as it has become known, now somehow means that one approves of some person or place or act or belief. In the lexicon of modern shorthand, to friend someone or something, or to like almost anything, becomes a metric for deciding how important or popular something or someone is (or is not). Well, here’s where the trainload goes off the track: you can buy a "bot" or robotic program that will Friend or Like whatever you want, in the name of what appears to be a real person. You can be "friended" a million times in minutes, by bots that have faces and names and histories - - - and they aren’t real. They don’t exist.
For me, finding a friend, or becoming friends with someone, isn’t something I’d ever want a robot to do for me. I don’t want to have a book I’ve written "liked" by robots (unless they actually buy the book, perhaps). What is happening to our world?
I have a lot of acquaintances, people with whom I do business or share interests. Among that coterie I count a few as friends, as well. But just because I know someone, even visit with them or work on something with them doesn’t make them a friend. We have, since the advent of what we call "social media," steadily devalued both "friend" and "like." I resent that reinventing of those words. Friendship is one of those things that gives meaning and substance to life. You meet someone in the course of work (or play) who turns out to be one with whom you really connect, and go on to enjoy a rewarding association. It is something that happens on its own. What makes a friend is obscure. It is one of those things that doesn’t require or flourish with analysis or deconstruction. A friend, I believe, just is.
That is one of life's most endearing mysteries, my friends.