What Facebook Doesn’t Get about Friendships in the 21st Century

It's time for Facebook to recognize something obvious about friendship in the 21st Century.

 

Let’s start with the basics:  there are two types of Friendships:  Virtual and Real-World.

I know this is something that has been brought up before, or I wouldn’t have the proper lexiconic terms to apply to these relationships–but I don’t think anyone has made the oh-so-obvious leap I am about to make within the walls (virtual or real-world) walls of Facebook’s corporate structure.  If they had, we would have a very different way to categorize our friendships in Facebook.  I don’t think about my friends as “friends” and “close friends,” as Facebook now categorizes them.  I think of them as “virtual friends,” and “real-world” friends.

We should be able to shuffle our friends into these two categories, and then have an option to change our relationship status from “virtual friend” to “real world friend” when we have an opportunity to meet.  This is important, because it is a big moment when we can finally meet someone with whom we have only had a virtual relationship.

I’m not saying that virtual friends cannot be good friends, and that “virtual friend” is somehow a lesser status.  I count among my closest friends some people I have only known via the internet–but there is something inherently different about seeing that person in the flesh, speaking to them, and having a moment to embrace them.  That is an entirely different type of friendship, an elevation of status that recognizes a human connection.

In fact, I was thinking to myself, that there should be a ritual to this process.  There is nothing more annoying than standing there with little to say to your newly minted “real world” friend.  I know when Germans move from referring to a person as “Sie” (a formal “You”) to “Du” (an informal and friendly “You”) they perform a ritual known as “Bruderschaft Trinken” (a drink to friendship).  It is a formal process where the older or more respected member of the friendship suggests to the other to drink “Shemollies” to formalize their friendship.  Then, the transition from “Sie” to “Du” becomes formalized, and they refer to one another in the familiar from that moment on.  I have always thought that this quaint custom of friendship is one full of power and beauty.

In this world of increasing inhumanity, it is ritual that makes and keeps the bonds of human relationships.  Wouldn’t a similar ritual, and maybe an exchange of a “friendship token” of some sort make sense when one moves from virtual to real-world friend?  I think I would like to make a collection of those friendship tokens, to treasure them, and to look at them as I age.  It would be a talisman of sorts, a touchstone to represent the friendships that transcend the virtual world.

So, how about it Facebook?  Can we have a “virtual friend” relationship status for our friends, and an announcement to others when we change that status?  Can we begin a new ritual and a new way to look at something that is so obvious in our lives?  Imagine the financial tie-ins!  Friendship tokens could be the new hot commodity — and evolve to include Internet of Things and Virtual Reality tie-ins.  Not only would this make common sense, it would make business sense as well.

Let’s start a movement!  Tweet and post your support and comments with #FriendshipStatus! Let’s design some friendship tokens, and get busy making one of the first social-media rituals.

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