Monday, August 16, 2010


I admit it -- I like Facebook. I enjoy hearing what is going on in the lives of people I love, seeing photos of their friends and families and fun times, getting the snippets of status updates. That said, I was challenged recently by something I read through my Leadership Journal (a great publication, by the way) subscription:

"In an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education, William Deresiewicz examines the new forms of friendship that have emerged in the age of Facebook. While social media has allowed us the opportunity to be connected to everyone, it more often than not comes at the expense of deep, meaningful, shaping friendship. Deresiewicz writes:
[Concerning] the moral content of classical friendship, its commitment to virtue and mutual improvement, that … has been lost. We have ceased to believe that a friend's highest purpose is to summon us to the good by offering moral advice and correction. We practice, instead, the nonjudgmental friendship of unconditional acceptance and support—'therapeutic' friendship, [to quote] Robert N. Bellah's scornful term. We seem to be terribly fragile now. A friend fulfills her duty, we suppose, by taking our side—validating our feelings, supporting our decisions, helping us to feel good about ourselves. We tell white lies, make excuses when a friend does something wrong, do what we can to keep the boat steady. We're busy people; we want our friendships fun and friction-free ….
With the social-networking sites of the new century—Friendster and MySpace were launched in 2003, Facebook in 2004—the friendship circle has expanded to engulf the whole of the social world, and in so doing, destroyed both its own nature and that of the individual friendship itself. Facebook's very premise—and promise—is that it makes our friendship circles visible. There they are, my friends, all in the same place. Except, of course, they're not in the same place, or, rather, they're not my friends. They're a [superficial likeness or semblance] of my friends—little dehydrated packets of images and information, no more my friends than a set of baseball cards is the New York Mets ….
Deresiewicz concludes: 'Friendship is devolving, in other words, from a relationship to a feeling—from something people share to something each of us hugs privately to ourselves in the loneliness of our electronic caves.'"

-- Jerry De Luca, Montreal West, Quebec, Canada; source: William Deresiewicz,
"Faux Friendship," The Chronicle of Higher Education (12-6-09)

I'm not planning to give up Facebook anytime soon. But this reminds me to truly value and nurture genuine, soul-transforming friendship, and not settle for any superficial imitation.

My friends, please know that I am grateful for the unconditional love and support that have been shown to me. But we must not stop there. A friendship is only true when we're willing to risk sometimes-scary conversations as we lovingly challenge each other to more fully live according to what we say we believe and value.

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