For What It’s Worth…Facebook, Relational Spaces, and Friendship Types
Therapy is way more than a toolbox of intervention. Information alone cannot replace professional help. However, information can be very powerful. So, for what it’s worth to you, here is the weekly post offering a therapeutic idea, concept, or intervention that you can try out in your own life or relationships.
Relationships are a natural part of every person’s life and we all juggle, manage, and develop a variety of different kinds of relationships. Personal, professional, familial…we move in and out of relational circles constantly as we go throughout our days. Friends are an important part of our constellation of relationships. However, what, exactly, is a friend? Facebook has put further challenges on defining a word that has many meanings.
We get into trouble when we expect…or even demand…that relationships look a certain way. Relationships, including friendships, grow and change as we grow and change.
There are also different TYPES of friends. Starting in childhood it can be helpful to understand the differences in these types of relationships. However, many adults still do not have these ideas down.
It is important to remember that we all need ALL of these types of friends. They are all important to a healthy life.
Maybe you went to school together in elementary school. Maybe you passed each other in recreational sports leagues. Perhaps your children attended the same preschool. It could be that you were fairly close at one time, but life has moved and changed your lives so that the connection is not quite as close.
These are the people you see in passing in town and you smile big and ask “How are you?”, say some nice pleasantries, and move on. They might even “like” some of your Facebook statuses. These are nice and important connections that make you feel tied to a community even if they are not daily integrated into your personal life.
You likely have MANY acquaintances. Acquaintances are important types of friends.
Playmates (Social Friends)
When you are a child you had playmates. These were the friends who came over from down the street to play. They were on your sports teams. They sat with you at lunch.
As an adult you might share a book club or bible study. Perhaps, you attend the same church class. Most people have several playmates or social friends. You usually live very close in proximity to social friends.
Social friends (playmates) are important part of a person’s life. However, they are not the same as the next type of friend.
Best friends are the people you tell your secrets to. They are who you call when something goes really wrong. You may or may not live close to your best friends. You have a deeper connection with these individuals that can span time and distance.
Most people only have a few best friends. Best friends are an important part of a person’s life.
Most people’s friendships move in and out of these spheres depending on the phase of life. A social friend might become an acquaintance five years from now. An acquaintance can become a social friend over time and even a best friend. Although this change can be difficult at times, it is even more challenging when people try to force friendships to stay the same. Friendships also face challenges when we try to force one type of friendship into another mold.
One of the best takes on this idea of different relationship “spaces” can be found in the book The Search To Belong by Joseph Myers. Myers identifies four relational spheres: public, social, personal, and intimate. Public relationships include the ones we have with the teller at the bank, your child’s kindergarten teacher from a few years ago, etc. Social space includes Starbucks, neighbors stopping by on the front porch, greeting people in the lobby at church. Personal spaces include the living room where friends watch television together or play video games as well as close friends meeting for lunch. Intimate relationships are few and far between with most people only having one to three intimate relationships in one lifetime. Think: spouses.
Again, we get into trouble when we force or try to drive people into spaces when they are not ready or the timing is not right. We also get into trouble when we assume that each type of friendship does not have value.
Facebook is an incredibly helpful tool for keeping up with relationships, but it can perpetuate a challenge that relationships have faced for years, which is a misunderstanding and undervaluing of the varied types of friendships. We need each kind of friendship and each type of relational space. Don’t let Facebook’s loose usage of the word “friend” lead you to lump everyone into one group. There are nuances of relationships that are important to the richness that makes up our lives. Of course, we know that Jesus modeled this reality for us very well. He had the inner circle of three, the twelve disciples, and the multitude. While on earth, even Jesus was not the same kind of friend to everyone.