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Friendship or Fringeship?

I enjoy having 600+ friends on Facebook and 750+ connections on Linked In and a few hundred followers on Twitter. My contact list of 2,000+ people is something else I feel good about.

Yes, I’ve seen the comments and heard the snarky remarks about how no one could really know that many people or have that many friends. And I agree.

I don’t think that my first paragraph and my second one are mutually exclusive. But I do sense that people are sensitive when it comes to the word “friendship.”  What does it mean, for example, to friend someone on Facebook? Does it mean you will share intimate and deep thoughts? Does it mean you’ll be getting together for coffee? If not, is that okay? For some people, it isn’t.

I respect that. And I will freely acknowledge that, by the strictest definition of “friend,” I do not measure up. Although I know and remember fondly each of my Facebook friends, there are some I have not seen in 40+ years. There are others who I have not had a 1-on-1 conversation with in my entire adult life. And there are others still who I had to look up in my junior high school yearbook to place and to call up those fond memories.

Why do I call them “friends” if that’s the case? Personally, it’s because they’ve made me smile somewhere along the way. It may be a cheap criteria for friendship, but it’s meaningful to me. I like having people from every single part of my life collected all in one place, with snippets of memories and smiles all available there. Having all of them there does not take away from my longer-lasting, deeply rooted, genuine heart & soul friendships. In fact, for me, it enhances who I am and what kind of a friend I am able to be.

That’s just me, though. Others take a very different view. I have several friends (and a husband!) who refuse to be on Facebook because they do not want to connect with people in a way they view as being superficial or artificial. They are surprised that I like being there, and I’m told it’s out of character for me. There’s a certain disbelief that I would be comfortable as one of many.

In a conversation about this, I asked my husband what he would call these friendships on social media. I proposed “acquaintanceships” and he countered with “fringeships” to signify that people who were not quite friends (per his definition) were more on the periphery and should be held at arm’s length. I get it. I don’t wholly agree with it, but I can see the logic in this.

What he and, I suspect, others are afraid of is this – would fringeships ever replace friendships? As we all spend more time on our computers and less time engaged in person with other people, would we put more stock in the opinions of those outside our inner circle? Would we get too far into the fringe to remain true to our core, tethered to our nearest and dearest? Can fringeships and friendships co-exist or do they compete with each other for time and mind share?

I think these are all legitimate concerns. But I’m not ready to react because I do feel enriched by all my friends and connections and contacts. Through them and with them, I have rediscovered bits of myself. I believe that friendship surpasses simplistic definitions and criteria. It’s really all about connecting with the people who are important to you – in ways that are big and small.

CONNECT 2 Lead graphic smalAs a leader, it’s imperative to understand why and how to show ever person that you care about them. Learn more about how you can CONNECT2Lead. And be sure to subscribe to the CONNECT2Lead Blog for weekly tips and techniques on leading with a people first approach.

Topics: CONNECT2LEAD Blog, networking, relationships, social media

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