Are Facebook Friends Real Friends?

The other week Meredith Sweetpea saw a bunch of teens at the roller skating rink. Each was skating alongside the friends they brought with them, yet all were text messaging others who were not there. I found it sad that they were neglecting those friends who made the effort to come in person and share the experience for the attention of virtual friends.

With the proliferation of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites that invite people to “friend” others, it brings to mind what the true meaning of friendship really is. Are we passing up the opportunity to cultivate lifelong friendships by spending our time with cyber-friends?

Here is how Victorian people in the 1880s defined friends, as written in The Golden Gems of Life (1880). Isn’t it still true today?


Friendship is the sweetest and most satisfactory connection in life. It has notable effect upon all states and conditions. It relieves our cares, raises our hopes, and abates our fears. A friend who relates his successes talks himself into a new pleasure, and by opening his misfortunes leaves a part of them behind him.

Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by doubling our joys and diving our griefs. Charity is friendship in common, and friendship is charity inclosed. It is a sweet attraction of the heart towards the merit we esteem or the perfection we admire, and produces a mutual inclination between two or more persons to promote each others’ interests, knowledge, virtue, and happiness.

The language of friendship is as varied as the wants and weaknesses of humanity. To the timid and cautious it speaks words of encouragement. To the weak it is ready to extend a helping hand. To the bold and venturesome it whispers words of caution. It is ready to sympathize with the sorrowing one, and to rejoice with those of good cheer. Friendship is not confined to any particular class of society or any particular geographical locality. No surveyed chart, no natural boundary line, no rugged mountain or steep declining vale puts a limit to its growth. Wherever it is watered with the dews of kindness and affection, there you may be sure to find it.

Friendship enters the abode of sorrow and wretchedness, and causes happiness and peace. Its influence dispels every poisoned thought of envy, and spreads abroad in the mind a contentment which all the powers of the mind could not otherwise bestow. True friendship will bloom only in the soil of a noble and self-sacrificing heart. There it enjoys perpetual Summer, diffusing a sweet atmosphere of love, peace, and joy to all around.

No man can go very far with strength and courage if he goes alone through the weary struggles of life. We are made to be happier and better by each others’ notice and appreciation. Never yet was there a human heart that did not at some time, in some tender and yearning hour, long for the sympathy of other hearts.

True friendship can only be molded by the experience of time. A thousand transitory friends meet us along the crowded thoroughfares of life; but when we come to try their durability in the sieve of experience, alas, how many fall through! There have been times in the life of every man when he has been willing to stake reputation, credit, all, on the true friendship of some companion, but he turns to find his idol clay.

True friendship is worth a whole caravan of those lukewarm and treacherous souls who profess to be attached to us, but whose affection is so uncertain and unstable that we fear to put it to the test of trial lest we lose it forever.

False friends are like our shadows, keeping close to us while we walk in the sunshine, but leaving us the instant we cross into the shade.

The signs of a true friend:

  • Will he weep with you in your hours of distress?
  • Will he faithfully reprove you to your face for actions other are ridiculing behind your back?
  • Will he dare to stand forth to defend your reputation?
  • When grief and loss obliges you to retire, will he still think himself happy in your presence, instead of withdrawing himself from an unprofitable connection.
  • Will he help you to support the burden of your afflictions?
  • When you are sick, will he listen with attention to your tale of suffering and administer the balm of consolation to your fainting spirit?
  • And when death shall break every earthly tie, will he shed a tear upon your grave and lodge the dear remembrance of your mutual friendship in his heart?

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