In Aristotle’s Rhetoric, there’s an interesting quote on friendship:
A friend is one who is active in providing another with the things that he thinks are benefits to him.
It’s a relevant quote. Let’s start at the beginning: “A friend is one who is active…” Right off the bat, most people get an F. We live in the age of social media, where friendship is made up of “likes”. People gain a million of these “friends,” failing to see the irony. The more popular they are online, the more isolated they become in real life.
For by active, we are talking about DEEDS.
The second part of the quote is also telling: “…providing another with the things that he thinks are benefits to him.” The part of the quote is a personal challenge. It requires us to ask ourselves some introspective questions: Am I offering my friends anything of benefit? What do I do for them? Can I do more?
We forget that friends are more than audience members. Friendship is an active interchange and, like so many things of value, is something that involves a bit of work.
A man I know just died. He was a musician that—for many years—threw parties at his home. Every month, the players in town would gather at his house, drink beer, and jam out. This went on for a long time.
Then he got sick…Stage 4 Cancer.
Two people came to visit in the hospital—his brother and son. That’s it…only two people. What happened to the 700 Facebook “friends”? Where did everybody go? Well, they were too “busy”…they had important things to do: like re-arranging the sock drawer, etc.
But when he died, the “friends” did a 360…
All of a sudden, his Facebook page was flooded with eulogies: “You were the greatest” and “Thanks for everything,” etc. All the “friends” were now jockeying for position on the social media highway, fighting for a chance to appear empathetic. They were posting photos, writing poetry.
A week earlier, only two people stood at his death bed. But now that he was gone, hundreds of people were commenting on his social media feed. Did they love him, or do they love social validation? Were they posting for him, or for themselves? Was the sadness real, or was it just a lie?
You know the answer…
Social media is a distortion of reality. It’s a false connection, a pseudo relationship. If you put all your faith in the digital realm, then don’t be surprised if it lets you down.
The only people that care about you are your family and—if you’re lucky—a friend or two.