I think we were talking about the power of words. Yes, they have tremendous power, but that potency can be reduced, even emasculated. In my opinion, one of the best words in the language has undergone such a process.
I value friends and friendship greatly. I particularly like the one that the ancient proverb calls “a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Those are few and far between. When you have one, you hang onto him/her. (Kind of like a good doctor, dentist or car mechanic.)
Today, however, the word “friend” means virtually nothing and we all know why. I know people who have hundreds of “friends” yet probably don’t have a single friend. You can’t blame Facebook, I guess. What else were they going to call them? Contacts? Hmm. Yeah, contacts. That’s a much better word. And there are probably several others. OK, I’m blaming Facebook.
But we are also to blame. No one is forcing us to “friend” (when did that get verbbed?) every human being (and probably a number of animals) we’ve ever met, seen, or heard of. I think it makes folks feel better when they can claim friendship with a few hundred strangers. Ironically, the more “friends” a person has, the less likely that person is to leave the cocoon and actually meet actual three-dimensional flesh-and-blood people.
When a word gets devalued, the corresponding concept often follows suit. Sure enough, a friend today usually lacks the intimacy that the word implies to me. Often, the folks who call themselves friends are more like playmates, acquaintances, or associates.
It’s no accident that the aforementioned proverb also includes the following prefix:
A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.
It must be admitted that virtual friendship (or can we call it friendishness?) is a whole lot easier to deal with than real iron-sharpening-iron relationships. Besides commitment, it take some heart and vulnerability. By making a friend, we put ourselves on the line. That’s very risky. But, as usual, great rewards come with great risk. There are few greater rewards than the friend who sticks closer than a brother (or sister).
All this explains why I’ve never joined the Facebook crowd. It is a very useful tool, I readily admit, but I don’t have time for it. I’m too busy with real friends.