I think we both agree that social media is an awesome force for growing your influence, social capital and general connectedness in the world at large. It’s been a great tool for both of us professionally to learn and grow. These tools allow us to harness the power of having a large network of loose acquaintances to access for information sharing, support, and other sorts of social capital. The thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is whether this growth in social media is causing us to spend less time developing the relationships on the other end of the spectrum–our best friends and most trusted partners.
I remember about a decade ago riding in a car with my dad talking about friends. His perspective was that you can have a lot of friends, but you can usually count on one hand the number of true friends you have in your life. A true friend was someone we felt would be there for you in any circumstance. Someone who you could count on even when being your friend might have a high cost for them personally. Someone who will bail you out of jail at 3 a.m. or stand by you when you are experiencing a public humiliation are examples. My dad’s experience was that you can have a lot of friends who are fun to hang out with and who are around when it’s convenient for them, but only a few will be around when it really matters.
A decade later, my experience has revealed the same thing. So, while it appears by the hundreds of Facebook friends I have that acquaintances are easy to come by, true friends are a pretty rare commodity and are therefore really valuable. And true friends are those developed the old fashion way, by spending time together in person, creating deep understanding and overlap in the relationship. This can’t happen online. There isn’t a “besty” button on Facebook because Facebook isn’t really about this kind of relationship. They are cultivated over a long period of time with intentional effort (i.e. you have to make time to make friends).
In my opinion, there are two types of really close relationships everyone should intentionally cultivate and develop: best friends and journey partners.
Best Friends are those true friends who I mentioned above. They are grounded in your personal life and they probably know just about everything about you. They love you for who you are and they are loyal to you. They bring out your best and they stand by you when you are at your worst. Best friends are those who are there for you when you really, really need a friend.
Journey partners are a similar kind of relationship, but the focus of the relationship is on your career or professional growth rather than your personal life. These are people who you respect and who believe in you without reservation. This person gives you permission to be exceptional and to press on when others are trying to dampen your dreams. A journey partner will give you a reality check when you need it, but they are completely invested in your success and growth. If you have big goals and dreams professionally, a great journey partner is critically important. In general, people love to tear down others big plans and goals because that’s how they protect their own lack of progress towards their own goals. Having just one voice in the crowd that says “don’t listen to them, you can do this” can make all the difference.
Social capital is about both quantity of connections and quality of relationships. It’s possible to do both and doing so can yeild some amazing results. It just takes time and commitment to make it happen. And, to find people like this, you have to be a person like this to others. If you are a crappy besty, you will never have great besties. I’m fortunate to have some amazing besties and journey partners in my life like you who fill these roles for me. I couldn’t be who I am without those relationships. And, these relationships make the journey along the way so much more fun and interesting.