I’ve been pondering the value and validity of the term “friend” lately. Until a few years ago, we all probably had a couple hundred friends, give or take. Social networking not only incrementalized that number, but changed the definition of the word for many people.

I have 1,300 or more “friends” on Facebook. I’ve probably met and spoken with more than you think, but not all of them. There are 18,000 or so people who follow me on Twitter. I follow most of them back. We are “friends” in a sense, too.

But online friendships are very different than those we recall from childhood. A dear friend of mine, in the offline sense, was betrayed by some of her online “friends” recently. I guess this has made me ponder the depth and nature of the friendships I have with people, both online and off.

Friends - Photo on Shutterstock.com by Matt Antonio

As I was thinking about this the other night, an email appeared in my inbox. It was a forward of one of those silly chains where you’re supposed to drop dead if you don’t immediately forward it to everyone you know named Joe or something. I glanced at the meme to see if it was at least interesting. It was.

Though this is supposed to be a statement of differential pride in West Virginia, my original home state and location of my Mountaineer-proud cousin Mark who sent me the email, I think you can see the comparisons that hit home with me.

Keep this in mind the next time you need to know the difference between a friend and a virtual friend:

Friends vs. West Virginia Friends

FRIENDS:
Never ask for food.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Bring the food.

FRIENDS:
Say “hello.”

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Give you a hug and a kiss.

FRIENDS:
Call your parents Mr. and Mrs.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Call your parents Mom and Dad.

FRIENDS:
Have never seen you cry.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Cry with you.

FRIENDS:
Will eat at your dinner table and leave.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Will spend hours there, talking, laughing, playing dominoes or cards and just being together.

FRIENDS:
Know a few things about you.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Could write a book with direct quotes from you.

FRIENDS:
Will leave you behind if that’s what the crowd is doing.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Will track down those who left you and kick their asses.

FRIENDS:
Would knock on your door.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Walk right in and say, ‘I’m home!’

FRIENDS:
Will visit you in the hospital when you’re sick.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Will cut your grass and clean your house then come spend the night with you in the hospital and cook for you when you come home.

FRIENDS:
Have you on speed dial.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Have your number memorized.

FRIENDS:
Are for a while.

WEST VIRGINIA FRIENDS:
Are for life.

Which are your favorites? What examples can you add? The comments are yours.

IMAGE: By Matt Antonio on Shutterstock.com. Used with permission.


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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Mai

    I've just realized I don't have any real friends :(

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Aw, c'mon. Heh.

  • http://www.gennextmedia.com/chris-marentis Chris Marentis

    All great points that vividly point to the fact that your social network, if used for business purposes, can't possible become real personal relationships. But, these can be mutually beneficial relationships even if they are not intimate. Like any circle of friends, you have some that are closer to you than others. Thats ok. They all serve a purpose and can be mutually supportive and beneficial to all.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Chris. I wouldn't say they can't possibly become real personal
      relationships, but the vast majority of them won't. Thanks for the
      comment.

  • kreedy

    Good post….and so true. I separate my social networking sites into use cases. LinkedIn for workmates, peers, industry folks I network with….anyone whose business opinion I would recommend or feel comfortable if they recommended someone to me. Face book for my friends….only. Twitter, I use to follow opinions of people who I think have ideas or interesting insight….I may not know them, but I want to see what they are talking about. Using the sites this way, I'm able to keep my “friends” list to a minimum.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Certainly a good approach, Kreedy. Thanks for sharing.

  • luissandovaljr

    An interesting post that really got me thinking of a post of my own. I really think the term “friend” has lost a lot of its meaning in this digital renaissance of high paced communication and consumption. I've always personally felt that the term “friend” was held for those that we truly hold dear and can depend on. But now on Twitter or any other social network it's not unusual to find us with 2000+ people we suddenly call “friends”. Sure it's a general term, but it also takes away from the word when we use it we sill consider close to us.

    So has social media changed the way we use certain words, devalued them in a sense to include much larger communities than we were once used to. Just some thoughts that came to mind when I read this.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great input, Luis. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.cc-chapman.com cc_chapman

    This is something I try to explain to people all the time that there IS a difference.

    A while ago I recorded a podcast where I talked about the difference between a lowercase “f” and an uppercase “F” in the difference between online friends and true Friends. Of course people still to this day ask which they are and my answer is always that if you have to ask then it is obviously a lowercase.

    It amazes me that a) people don't know there is a difference and b) that they can't figure out why there is one.

    Thank you for sharing!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      And for anyone who would like to listen to the podcast (since CC was
      demure enough to not leave a link), it's here:

      http://www.managingthegray.com/2007/12/05/frien

      Thanks, buddy. Appreciate the chiming in!

  • KatFrench

    Let's be frank. Many social media or online “Friends” are actually “contacts.” No different than the contacts list in your Outlook.

    (Sorry CC–I use the Caps to signify it's a socnet title, not a real relationship.)

    Is there a relationship there? Sure? Can it be mutually beneficial? Absolutely. But friendship isn't based on potential for mutual gain. It's based on shared experience. And some Friends are also friends, but it's the shared experiences that make it so.

    And I don't think those shared experiences necessarily have to be offline. I have some very dear friends from my old message board days whom I've never met in person. We have some very intense, very real shared experiences in common. They're my friends. We've just never met face to face.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great perspective, Kat. Thanks for that!

  • http://miltski.com/ Miltski

    Having a hundreds or thousands of followers is useless if you haven't convert that visit click into real cash. In building a network, you should be able to identify your targeted market and know how to deal with.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the comment. The post was really about personal friends
      instead of business relationships, but thanks for the thoughts.

  • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com/ clearcast

    I'm not in the mood to talk about how this relates back to Social Media. It's Friday and I don't wanna. Nyah!
    BUT, your post got me to thinking about my two best friends, both of whom I've known for over 30 years.

    We were out walking in New York City and my buddy ducked into a candy store. When he came out, he offered me some of what he got. It occurred to me that if my OTHER lifelong friend had been with us and gone into the same candy store, he would have bought me something that he knew I liked, not just shared whatever he bought.

    I don't want to come off like one's a better friend than the other. I love them both. Your post just made me think about this random incident that probably happened over 15 years ago. Have no idea what it means. Just wanted to share it because it seemed like it dove tailed with your whole “Friends-WVa Friends” meme.

    Have a good weekend, bro.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the story. It does certainly have an interesting parallel.
      And don't worry about not relating back to social media. We all need a
      break now and then. Heh.

  • http://jasonkeath.com jakrose

    Friends read your blog. Real friends comment. =)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Awesome. Great add.

  • http://twitter.com/roundpeg Lorraine Ball

    A friend will tell you what you want to hear
    A West Virginia, Indy, NY Friend ( take your pick) will tell you what you NEED to hear.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Well said, Lorraine.

  • Felicia Morton

    Great post and based on my personal knowledge of the great people of West Virginia – very true (although Chicago friends come close).

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Felicia! Appreciate the comment.

  • markwilliamschaefer

    One of my best friends, Jack, is also from West Virginia. Somebody from Kentucky was telling a “West Virginia” joke at his expense. The guy clucked, well, y'all probably tell Kentucky jokes about us. Jack replied, “no, actually we don't.”

    Another for you list.

    A fellow Mountaineer, @markwschaefer

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Awesome add, Mark! Thanks.

  • ShellyKramer

    What a great post! You've said it all, Jason!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Shelly!

  • ShellyKramer

    What a great post! You've said it all, Jason!

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  • Yuzi HU

    Hey Jason,
    It is nice to read your articles and I do get some inspiration.
    Today I read this post and I am touched.
    People come and go, only few called ture friends will all stand by you.
    Really a great post!!

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, so much, for saying so!

  • Yuzi HU

    Hey Jason,
    It is nice to read your articles and I do get some inspiration.
    Today I read this post and I am touched.
    People come and go, only few called ture friends will all stand by you.
    Really a great post!!

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    Nice post.Adding many friends on facebook is not a big job but they should be related to our interest.

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