The young woman looked seriously into the camera and said one measure of success for Millennials – the generation ages 18-34 – is how many “friends” they have on Facebook.
That YouTube statement this past week reminded me of a conversation from nearly 25 years ago, when many Millennials were not born yet.
I was talking with the company’s Human Resources director about something I do not recall and, at one point, I said to her, “Well, we’re friends, right?”
It’s really one of those questions you don’t expect an answer to. I especially did not think she would say in return, “I don’t think so, Tim.”
Having had a nice discussion up until that point, and likely seeing my obvious facial reaction of surprise, she continued, “Do we do things together outside of the office?”
“Sure, you and I have gone to a lot of community events together, even with our spouses, like that gala last weekend.”
“No, those are work-related events or commitments,” she said. “Do you and I do things otherwise? Do we do things together just for fun? Have you ever been inside my house? If I were no longer an employee here, would we still talk or get together?”
“Wow, I guess we’re not friends, and I don’t think we’d see each other much if we didn’t work together. You live in the middle of town and I live on the north side; I think we would rarely cross paths,” I said, a little miffed – reaching the conclusion that my mental list of “who my friends are” just decreased significantly, based on this new criteria.
“Don’t get me wrong, I like talking with you … you’re funny, engaging and friendly, but we’re more colleagues or acquaintances rather than friends,” the HR director said backpedaling just a bit, as though she realized her answer to my rhetorical question stepped on my psyche.
Who are your friends?
Have you ever sat down at your friend’s dinner table? Have you tasted their family’s secret recipe? Do you know the recipe or have it? If you called them and asked for help in the yard, lifting something or moving a piece of furniture, would they drop what they’re doing and come over?
When I joined Facebook, I did so because I could not go to my high school reunion and looked at it as a way to tell people where I am and what I’m doing. I quickly amassed nearly 400 “friends,” but it dawned on me most were from high school and a lot were not my friends back then.
“Why would they be my friend now?” I asked myself.
Over the years I have whittled that list of 400 down and formulated the personal policy that Facebook “friends” are people I am close to. They are people who are more than acquaintances, people who I would do something with or for.
Maybe if members of the Millennial Generation would do the same, engaging in life rather than relying on social media for “friends,” we would not also refer to them as Generation Me.
Since they are or will become our future leaders, what does that say about our future? Will they take care of the massive and aging Baby Boomer Generation (ages 50-69) as well as Generation X’ers (ages 35-49)?
What do you think makes someone a true friend? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.