None of my best friends is black.
OK, I apologize. I did that just to get your attention. We have become so race conscious in the last couple of years, I figured that sentence would cause everybody to read further, if for no other reason than to see if I would say something irredeemably stupid.
What I really want to talk about is friendship, specifically what it means to be a friend.
If I remember my comparatives and superlatives, it goes good, better, best. That means I would need at least three friends to designate one of them my “best” friend, and I don’t think I qualify.
Well, I did have two best friends in high school, one to go bowling and fishing and girl-ogling with, and one to sit around with and talk about how smarter we were than everybody else. But that came from the passion of youth, when we had the deepest, most earnest feelings about the silliest, most superficial things.
As an adult, I’ve been more discerning. I’ve come to see friends as those you can tell anything to, who will always have your back and know you will have theirs, who will never judge you but accept you as you are, flaws and all.
A friend is someone so special as to be rare, worth the world to find and too precious to let go of. It’s not just a likable acquaintance you hang out with when there’s nothing better to do. If you’re lucky, you’ll have but a handful of them in your whole life.
What brings this up is that I have finally joined Facebook, apparently after everyone else in the known universe.
It was sort of an accident.
I went online looking for a barbershop, since my previous one did not survive the great COVID lockdown, and ended up on one shop’s Facebook page. Suddenly, there was a popup box asking if I’d like to join, so I started filling out the form. Be a good place to schedule haircuts, I thought, and maybe pick up some tidbits of the gossip barber shops are famous for.
Turns out it was a Facebook signup form, though. Since I was almost through it, I thought, “Oh, why not?” – you know, like we did back in high school – and before I knew it, I had my own page.
Upon which I started getting all these friend requests, at first from people I know and then from people who know people I know and then from people who know people who know people I know – as Facebook happily tells me, “You have five” or 20 or 45 “mutual friends!”
Before I knew it, I had nearly 100 Facebook “friends,” which gets more absurd the more I think about it.
They’re a motley bunch, blue collar and white, liberal and conservative, spiritual and cynical, shy and ostentatious, sort of like the cross-section of people you’d find in a high school homeroom or waiting with you to go next at the BMV.
And they’re judgmental, I notice. Any time I post something, someone can come along and click on “like” or ignore it, leaving me despondent. Now, that’s something I will take from people I think of as “friends” by my admittedly narrow and exaggerated definition, because I know they have my best interests at heart. But I suspect that someone on Facebook who doesn’t like my opinion of the General Assembly is not nudging me to be a better person.
Speaking of which, I notice Indiana government has its own Facebook page. I do not think I will friend Indiana government. I still think of government as a necessary evil, and that’s not a healthy attitude to take into a new relationship.
I will consider individual politicians, though – they’re people, too, after all. I’ve already friended one city councilman with whom I’ve played bridge and another one who represents my district and I hope will take my calls when I complain about the potholes in my alley. Hey, we’re buds, right? Pals. Chums. Compadres.
I’m still thinking about Governor Holcomb.
His page is a little bit of a turnoff, all those photos of him standing solemnly in front of an American flag. But if we become Facebook cronies – oops, bad word, sorry, Eric – I can kindly point out to him, strictly in an effort to nudge him to better personhood, that his new beard really isn’t as cool as he thinks it is.
Besides, I can then say proudly that the governor is one of my besties. We have 6.8 million mutual friends, after all.
Leo Morris is a columnist for The Indiana Policy Review.