Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who's a friend?

I was visiting with a neighbor while walking around the park this morning and watching a gathering of Great Egrets. He commented on how there is an upper limit of 5,000 "friends" on Facebook. We were both a bit skeptical about how many true friends people might have versus this new phenomenon of "friending" people via social networking. Seems this new definition of friends is a mile wide and an inch deep.

We were both of the opinion that friendships develop over time and take a lot of face to face interaction. A dictionary defines friend as "a person you know well and regard with affection and trust". Seems hard to imagine that we can really get to know and trust people all that well simply via social networking.

Over the past 20 plus years in the field of mentoring I observed how diluted the term "mentoring" has become. With the advent of e-Mentoring and various group mentoring opportunities watered down versions of traditional mentoring developed . I don't believe that the same quality results tat mentoring provides can be achieved though programs that lower the bar in an effort to make it quick and easy. One of life's basic principles is that we shouldn't expect significant gains without significant long-term effort. While there might be a role for quick and easy relationships, they can't supplant the need for quality long-term friendships.

Now with a click of a mouse we can become "friends" with someone. These new "friends" are not of the same quality as the one-to-one long term friendships that all of us need. If however you think that 5,000 Facebook friends is too few you can join the petition that is floating around to increase the maximum number.

While electronic communication provides a quick and efficient means of communication with many, I don't believe it will ever come close to replicating the value of a good friend.

Think the group of Great Egrets that gathered this morning, pictured above, are friends?

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