I was reading a column in Wired about friends and social networking, when I started to think about the role that friends play in my life. It's something that has evolved a great deal in my life.
But before I get into that, I should mention that I'm still very particular about who I accept as a friend on Facebook. For the most part, I don't "friend" anyone I don't know or at least have some meaningful exposure to. In the early days it was almost entirely volleyball kids, since they were the only ones who could use Facebook at first. After very slow adoption, the kids were superseded by coworkers and former classmates. I'm still only around 160, and that's cool.
But who are your friends, really? Friends have never been that different than family to me in terms of being people you can rely on. Similarly, you can't do much else than accept them for who they are. There's often a mismatch in what you expect to get out of friendship, and it's sometimes too easy to be hurt by that.
I'm the first to admit I'm not very good at keeping up my end of the bargain on friendships. I also find it difficult to maintain a large array of them. It's easy to have hundreds of people I know, but the number I consider close friends is very small.
What seems less a factor is distance, and we can thank the Internet for that. It kills me that I haven't seen Mike and Artemisa now in two years, but we do talk now and then when we do the podcast. I went about a year without seeing Kara, the longest time probably since we met, but again technology makes it possible to keep up. Tim and family we often miss completely in the winter. But even when people are near by, like my cousins Dave and Niki, who are the most geographically close relatives I have, the time can get away from you and you realize it has been awhile.
A lot of people that you think are friends tend to disappoint you, or you realize that they have some other motive. A lot of people just want something from you. You see this more through working situations than anything else.
The best friendships come from lovers, girl/boyfriends (I prefer the girls) and spouses. I'm grateful for the intensity and love that I've experienced in that realm. I never take that for granted, because I know there are a lot of people who never have those experiences. I can say it's happened to me four times. It's humbling and amazing.
Friendships come and go, and that's just life. I used to generally subscribe to the idea that you experienced significant changes every four years or so, and as you go from one era to the next, few people transition from one to the next.
At the end of the day, I find it compelling to summarize friendship in principle #4 of the J-Pizzie Lifestyle Manifesto:
"Friendship is what you make it, with great joy and disappointment, and with the excellent knowledge that you're always making great memories. Seek more of those experiences."