I struggle with the idea of friendship. I am blessed to have many good friends but I don't know if I am a very good friend to have. Most of my childhood was spent in Africa as a missionaries' kid, and while this was a great experience in many ways, it meant that the friends I had were only in my life for one or two years at a time, not really enough time to form any kind of lasting relationships. By the time I hit high school in New Hampshire the list of friends made and lost was pretty long and I shied away from friendship of any kind. I did have one good friend in high school (thanks to her friendliness and persistence) and going to college together made the adjustment easier for both of us. College was a whirl of new friends and social activities for me, and I remember my senior year being a culmination of great experiences and relationships, but in the back of my mind I knew I would soon lose it all. A popular song at that time was from Michael W. Smith with this chorus:
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them
And a friend will not say never
'Cause the welcome will not end
Though it's hard to let you go
In the Father's hands we know
That a lifetime's not too long to live as friends
I tried to believe it but in my experience once your friends are gone they are out of your life forever. And for awhile that was true.
Once I was out of the secure college environment I again struggled with finding and making friends - I tend to keep everyone at arm's length and I find it difficult to connect with anyone on more than just a surface level. I prefer to be in the background, watching the social interactions going on around me - I am naturally a shy, quiet person (publicly anyway - my family has had a different experience) which causes social awkwardness, which makes me more reticent... well you can see how this becomes a vicious cycle. I love the idea of being a "fly on the wall" - observing the social interaction around me but not having to participate in it - I'm a people watcher!
Which brings me back to Facebook. What a perfect social environment for someone like me! You can see what's going on in your friends' lives, observe the interactions with their friends and family, and you can choose to participate or not. It's fun to look at their photo albums, check out their interests and opinions, and read their status updates. And you know all of those friends that I lost track of over the years? I have re-connected with many of them, including friends from college, high school, the international school in Liberia (ACS), and even the Lutheran boarding school I attended in 4th and 5th grades in "up-country" Liberia (Phebe). We recently moved and Ed is serving a new church, and although it has been hard to leave friends and colleagues behind I can keep up with some of them on Facebook, and at the same time get to know some of my new church family in the same way! It truly represents a cross-section of my life, spanning the years of my life, places I have lived, and people I have known. Of course I still have to live in the real world and strive to develop and nurture friendships in person, but Facebook has added a whole new social dimension to my life and that can only be a good thing.