Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What is the true meaning of friendship?

I admit to being a Facebook fan.  I don’t think I’ve reached the addictive stage but I do love the connections and the inspirational postings and the news from friends old and new.  I love the opportunity to connect on a daily basis and to check up on what is gong on easily and quickly with those who are far away.

I now have a few hundred friends on Facebook.  I know that on one level I can’t really say that they are all friends in the sense that I know and have spent time with them.  I don’t know their circumstances or their families or their experiences.  However, I do count them as acquaintances, I do care about the ups and downs of their lives and I do try to be supportive when I see a need.

One of the features of Facebook I am most grateful for is the birthday reminders.  Keeping track of even my close family members’ birthdays has always been a challenge for me and to be reminded is a blessing.

The other day, however, I realized that as far as acknowledging birthdays on Facebook and responding to its reminders goes I was, without consciously thinking about it, displaying a behavior that left me uncomfortable.  I was only selectively wishing people Happy Birthday using some vague criteria of how well I thought I knew them that was based not much in fact but more in how I was feeling that day at that time.  I was ignoring a whole bunch of birthdays because, well, they weren’t really my friends were they?  They were just Facebook connections and therefore I was not obliged to wish them many happy returns.


Where did that come from?  What if just one of those people didn’t get a single message on their birthday?  What if I could have changed that by just typing two simple words?  It doesn’t take much of an effort to check the birthday reminders every day and type in a greeting.  I know it brings a smile to my face when I get those good wishes so I am sure it works that way with others too.

From that moment I changed my behavior.  Now the first thing I do when I get on Facebook every day is check the birthdays and send out greetings, whether I know the person well or not.  More often than not, later in the day, I get a Thank You back and I know that I have contributed just a little to someone’s good day.

I began to think that the idea that Facebook friends are not true friends is only the result of thinking that my friends deserve a better kind of treatment than everyone else I meet.  Oh boy, that realization gave me the shudders!

Why would I have two standards of treatment for people just because I know some and don’t yet know others?  That doesn’t now seem to make much sense.

What if we all treated everyone we meet as a true friend?  What if we give them the attention and love we give to our friends and family?  What kind of a place would the world be if we all followed that philosophy and performed those actions?  I wouldn’t mind betting that it would be a far better place than it is now.

Old habits die hard as they say and changing my behavior around others is a challenge but I believe it is worth the effort.  I’ve made a start by wishing everyone a Happy Birthday on Facebook not just those I know well.  

In my neighborhood, most people smile and wave as they drive by each other.  If they are walking they say good morning.  I love that!  As a result we have a friendly community where people support one another and offer help in time of  need.

Treating everyone as if they matter (because they do!) yields wonderful results not just on birthdays but everyday.  Try it!

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