“We have become postgraduates in the art of acquaintance and paupers in the art of friendship.” John O’donohue
The Dunbar Number – approximately 150 – is “the number of people you can have a relationship with involving trust and obligation – there’s some personal history, not just names and faces.”
A Facebook “friend,” a person I knew in high school but by no means was ever friends with, died an untimely death last week. I have no knowledge of the circumstances. I have no details to share. I last saw this person in the spring of 1987. I am saddened by the news, of course, but in an indirect way. It’s a hollow feeling lacking the depth that comes from the experience of a personal loss. More than likely, the sadness I feel is a result of my projections onto the situation; a mid-forties parent leaving behind children and family, a person with so much more life to live cut down in their prime. How can I not see myself in that storyline?
In truth, I feel lousy that I feel so little. Even though I know the word “friend” has been appropriated I do not like knowing that I am “friends” with people for whom I feel no friendship. Perhaps the purpose is to remind me of my responsibility and desire to deepen my connection with those whose friendship needs no quotation marks.
On a family campout this weekend I was talking with a friend about the importance of connection and, of course, the irony of how little connection there is in our highly connected world. I am no Luddite but I am paying attention and this is what I see. More importantly, it’s what I feel. There we were, circled around a bunch of flashlights (No campfire. Too many wildfires.), connected through food and conversation, learning about one another, telling stories, sharing ideas. I made some new acquaintances this weekend. I also deepened some friendships. It was the point of the campout. It was good.
I forgot my bank card last week so had to actually go into the bank to deposit a check. I met Coral, the teller, and used my tired attempt at ironic humor when I expressed my “frustration” over the “unfortunate circumstance of actually having to deal with a human being.” I’m glad I did as it sparked a lively exchange. She proceeded to tell me that when her friends get together for dinner they put all of their “devices” in the middle of the table. The first person to reach for a phone has to pay the entire check. She said, “I eat a lot of free meals.” As I expressed my admiration for her restraint she continued, “well, why do I need it? I’m already with the people I would be calling or texting.” Score one for the good guys.
Yes, I want more “followers” and, yes, I want more “friends.” Is it crass or narcissistic to say so, to admit that I want more exposure for my ideas and more opportunity to grow my business? Conversely, is it crass to want access to the new learning and the new possibilities that emerge from my new “connections”? I don’t think it is. But my responsibility is to not be confused by which is which; to not be ruled by an abstraction of friendship, connection or relationship rather than by an individual, real experience of it.
I have 1,000+ LinkedIn “Connections,” I have 500 Facebook “Friends” and about the same number of Twitter “Followers.”
And there’s about 25 people I could call on the phone right now who would take the time to listen. I call them friends.