I had fun on a recent evening FB messaging my friend Neta in Israel. I was asked by another friend to translate Hebrew lettering from his teenage daughter’s new tattoo (does it really say what she thinks it says?). I know several people who read Hebrew. As a native Israeli, Neta was one, so I asked her. We ended up messaging back and forth for quite a while, even after she revealed that the tattoo didn’t translate well.
I first met Neta when we were both in high school. She stayed with me for a weekend when her school concert band came to the Northwest. We both played clarinet. For some reason we hit it off. At the time we became “pen pals.” Does anyone even use that term any more? We continued to write letters to each other through high school, my time in college and her time in the Israeli Army. It continued through her time in college, the start of my career, the death of her father, the death of my mother, through my marriage, and eventually through her marriage, then careers for both of us, and children. It’s been a life-long friendship. She visited the states twice – one time she and I traveled to the San Juan Islands together; the other time I saw her briefly when she was here with her husband and kids. I visited her once in Israel – after my senior year in high school.
I still remember some of the conversations we had when we met in person. She’s one of those people who I will remain friends with forever, even if we only see each other fewer than a dozen times during our lives. We no longer write letters. We “like,” “comment” and occasionally send sentences to each other in the form of FB messages or e-mails.
My recent messaging with Neta has me thinking about friendships in the age of Facebook. Like others, I wonder: Are FB friends really friends? Do I really have more than 500 friends? Have I even met them all?
The short answer to that last question is no. I haven’t. I’m “friends” with one guy who a real friend recommended I become friends with because he’s quite entertaining. She’s right. I enjoy having him as my “friend” because his posts are interesting. I’m “friends” with some people in high school that I wasn’t friends with then and I’m really not friends with now. But that’s okay, if they want to friend me I’m happy to friend them back. I’m “friends” with people I knew for three weeks at summer camp one summer. I’m “friends” with many former work colleagues (journalists like to stay in touch and keep up with all the gossip). I’m “friends” with family members – some who I talk to nearly every day and others who I’ve never met, including a gal from New Zealand! I’m friends with some of my kids’ friends and their parents – even though my oldest son de-friended me when he got sick of the lurking.
I’m also friends with some people who I am very good friends with – those I talk to at least once a week; those I see several times a year, those I tell my most secret secrets to. How can they all be part of the same ecosystem? That’s an interesting question that I wrestle with every time I post something. Who is my intended audience? Am I sending the right message? Is my goal to inform or to entertain or both?
Ah, good questions that I think about as a publicist as well. We’re always striving to send the right message to the right audience to have the biggest impact.
What do you think about your new “friends?” I welcome your responses. And to my “friends” – thanks for being part of my universe – whether you are a childhood friend like Neta, a work colleague, or someone I’ve never met. I look forward to our continued friendship!