'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
DID YOU ‘FRIEND’ YOUR FRIEND’S FRIEND YET?
There is a very special word in the English language: “friend.” Good friends are essential to experience the joys of life. Aristotle said, “Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.”
Life is too difficult to face alone, which is why we need friends. Jerome Cummings said, “A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway.” Walter Winchell said, “A real friend is one who walks in, when the rest of the world walks out.” And Euripides said, “One loyal friend is worth 10,000 relatives.” (Whoa, Euripides’ house must have been crazy during Thanksgiving weekend.)
Having good friends is vital, but as Lee Iacocca said, “When you die, if you’ve got five real friends, then you’ve had a great life.” True friends are crucial, but they are few and far between. And mere acquaintances are not true friends. Which is why I’m concerned the word “friend” is currently being redefined, possibly to the point of being meaningless. As with all the other ills of the world, I blame Facebook.
If you’re familiar with Facebook, then you probably are not reading this column, because you are currently on your computer sharing an important piece of information about yourself with the rest of the world, such as the fact that you just successfully clipped your toenails. (Most other personal postings on Facebook, alas, are not nearly as interesting.)
If you are not familiar with Facebook, then you are a lucky person. Facebook just might be the biggest time-waster ever invented by mankind, not counting the Department of Motor Vehicles and “The View.”
In the virtual world of Facebook, people link up with their “friends” and communicate via computer. All your thoughts and ideas—including poorly thought-out ideas (e.g., cuticle maintenance updates)—are posted for all your “friends” to see. But with Facebook, unlike what Lee Iacocca said, you can have hundreds and even thousands of “friends.” All you have to do is request that someone, anyone, on the Internet be your friend, and if they accept, then you’ve got yet another one.
However, if we reach a point where anyone and everyone, including even total strangers, are considered to be a “friend,” then I’m afraid the word has lost all meaning. The definition of friend should be a bit more than: “The person from Seattle I’ve never met, and will never meet, who stumbled across my Facebook profile and saw that I too am a Springsteen fan and so requested that we be friends.”
Another annoying thing Facebook has done is turn the word friend into a verb. The following are now considered grammatically correct sentences: “Did you friend her yet?” “I should friend him,” and, “My friend Alice friended her friend Bobby because of his friend Jimmy’s friend request.” (Huh?)
Using Iacocca’s “five real friends” standard, only a couple of my “five” friends live nearby, and so I keep in touch with the others via, um, Facebook. OK, fine, I’m a hypocrite—but my friends still like me anyways. (Even when I repeatedly say “anyways” instead of “anyway.”)
The Internet is not all bad; after all, where would I dig up so many quotes about friendship? I’m just saying that having 1,000 online “friends” is no substitute for a couple of real friends.
My favorite quotation about friendship is from Clarence Oddbody, AS2 (Angel, Second Class): “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings.”
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