How many friends do you have? As a novelist and blogger, this question is put to me over and over. I'm always puzzled by what the question means. I have many friends that I have never physically met, and then I have a handful that are the old-fashioned, face-to-face kind.
During the early days of humanity and perhaps for a long time after, friends were limited to the distance they were willing to walk to visit each other. The dangers of walking from one village to another made friendship-building difficult. Many people were limited to those who lived in the same village. Making friendships outside the village's protection was deliberate and made out of necessity for trade, alliances, and peace. Thus, the Friend-Necessity model was born.
The advent of transportation, from the chariot to the airplane, gave way to long-distance travel. The Friend-Necessity type of alliance could now be made across large land masses and oceans. For centuries the model has been used to prevent wars.
1876 saw the creation of an invention that gave the Friend-Necessity model its next great leap. The telephone permitted people to escape the limitation of physically being present or having to send a possibly misinterpreted letter. The telephone allowed the Friends-Necessity model to expand without the use of an emissary or travel.
In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg changed the definition of friends forever. Facebook took friendship and made it limitless. The physical boundaries were obliterated and anyone could be a friend to anyone else, anywhere. But more importantly, and for the first time in history, the Friend-Necessity model had direct competition on a world-wide scale. Zuckerberg brought about a new concept: The Friend– Commonality model. Whether conscious or not, he even used the term "Like." The idea was ingenious because it played on the insecurities of people. Everyone wants to be "Liked," and everyone wants to have friends. Other social media platforms have followed Zuckerberg's ingenuity. Twitter and Instagram used the term "Followers." Linkedin seems to have stayed with the older, more established, Friends-Necessity model, using the word "Connections" and a focus on necessary alliances.
Now don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a bad thing. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Linkedin have created a world that has been able to tie people together in a multitude of ways that the Friend-Necessity model alone could never accomplish. Are there aspects of the Friend-Necessity model in the social media mindset, of course? Social media has surpassed the basic premise of let's be friends because it's good for both of us. There was an underlying principle in Zuckerberg's idea. It has an inherent trust built-in. Making a friend that is just a friend implies a level of trust exists.
Recent light shed on international cyber hacking has created complications for the Friend-Commonality model regarding trust. Widespread distrust and misuse of social medial is a sign that the Friend-Necessity model is still very powerful. It has also brought to light that both models fall prey to abuse and deceit.
It's up to us to understand that both models are essential and serve a function. The Friend-Necessity model is eons old, and the Friends-Commonality model is a much-needed alternative. We all use components of each in creating our friendships. Now we just know it.
Please let me know your thoughts.
"Writing is the flow of life through words on a page. We all have this talent to share." Luca DiMatteo