The question of the day:  “How many friends can a person have? According to a theory called Dunbar’s number, we may have a maximum limit to how many people we can maintain relationships with – around 100 to 230 people. As the theory goes, our brains simply can’t manage more.”  

I laughed when someone of Facebook asked me to be their friend–one of over 5000, she wanted statistics, not friends

Dictionary.com offers two definitions of friend: 1. a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard. 2. a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter.  To me the first definition probably  defines an Internet friend.  Someone who is more of an acquaintence, which the same source defines as:  someone known to you, but not a close connection. and attached by one or another mutual interests.

The  Internet friends attach by sharing the following: game playing:  common interests such as pictures, recipes;  events of  day-to-day lives including the good, the mundane, and the bad thing;  shared political  points of view often to get reinforcement or to bring others over to our way of thinking about issues dear to our hearts.

But here is the conundrum.  Intimacy is built by sharing of feelings.  So the Internet has the possiblity.  Whether the intimacy is friendly or hostile depends on whether shared feelings are met with kindness and caring or hostility and name calling. And no attention means loss of intimacy.  I have a number of  college friends I dearly loved  and are still in touch with.   We are bound by history. I also have lost touch with some of those friends I was close to.  Our friendships started in college; we met our first year, two were roommates of mine and all of us in the group made sure we roomed in the same dorm on the same floor until graduation.  The picture above is of  a trip we all took  to New York City while still students.  I think it was in our Sophomore or Junior Year. We all stayed at one or my roommate’s home.  Some of the friendships have continued some have not.  Always some contact is needed.

When I lived in the East, visits were possible and every few years this  group of friends managed to got together.  Some more often and in small groups.  It was easiest for those who lived near one another.  The picture on the left was taken during one  the larger get togethers. I think it was the first large one I attended.  That  must have been about 20 years after graduation, because I had married by then and think Daniel was six or seven.  The get together was held at Bethany Beach at the summer home of a one of those classmates.

The phone also helped keep some of us close, but the fact is I am now mostly only in touch with those who are in one way or another connected electronically.  One woman who I loved and admired a great deal doesn’t own and refuses to own a computer.  Staying in touch with her has been much harder.  Plan to print this up and send it to her and another friend who moved and I no longer have her telephone number, and although a computer user I think her email address must have changed.  Friendships need nurturing and contact, but even when that is lacking the love remains.  I know if life brought me in contact with any of these women, we’d be laughing and giggling and sharing as we did in college.  The internet has made that easier for me and I do wish my college friends were all as addicted to it as I am.

In 2004 some of the group gathered in NYCity.  Some stayed with me and for a few I think it was a bit of a culture shock.  I lived in the Bronx, had a huge apartment, but the Bronx still had a slightly scary reputation.  I lived in a very mixed neighborhood that was generally safe, but not late at night.  Several of my friends came early and helped me at Health Fair Event I was sponsoring in the South Bronx as part of a Peace Project.

One had recently published a children’s book and the South Bronx families I worked with were thrilled to meet a real author.  She read her book to the kids, talked to some who wanted to be writers,  Others in the group helped us back Peace Cranes.   The picture below was taken the next day as we were “Doing the city.”  I have some others of that day and will try to post them at another time.

A bit more about friendship.  When I directed a mental health crisis team, I develop a tool I called the Three Circles of Caring.  The First Circle were the people you could absolutely count on the help you in any way they could.  That might be lending you their car, picking you up if got stranded somewhere, taking care of your kids, going with you to a troublesome appointment, even lending or better yet  giving you money if you were dead broke.  Some family members belong in that inner circle, some don’t.  It is usually a small group.

Mental health professionals worry most about kids who can’t make friends and adults who have no close friends.  At times when we were filling out the Three Circles of Caring, some said there was no one they could think of to put in that inner circle.  The team became their First Circle, but only briefly for a major treatment goal was always to help them find friends.  Usually we succeeded, mainly because we held a lot of what I called Family Fun events that gathered all our families together and it was rare that friendships didn’t develop.

The Second Circle Of Caring was for the people who couldn’t or wouldn’t give you that kind of concrete help or for those you felt you should not ask for such help.  Still these were friends who always managed to cheer you up or make you feel good about yourself.  This was also a place we asked people to think about those from their past who had served that purpose.  My college friends are my very best second circle friends, a few  belong in the first circle, and all are part of my Good Memory file.  Our final get together of these friends was two years ago at a 5oth college reunion.  Cannot find a picture of that get together, but hopefully one of those who were there will send me one and I can add it. This picture is of a get together at one of our college reunions.  Someone from the group will have to tell me the date.

The Third Circle of Caring was for the professional helpers and people like the local cop on the beat, the local store keepers, teachers, paid mentors, coaches, ministers and priests. The rule for including someone here was in addition to doing their job, they had to respect you as a person and make you feel you were of value and not just doing their job, but it they were not friends..

Everyone else was not a friend, but just someone doing their job.    A therapist once accused me of excessive loyalty.  True and I can count on three fingers the friendships I have purposefully terminated.   That does not mean others haven’t drifted away, but I am blessed  as I have family and four or five very good friends in my First Circle,  all those college friends and some others in my Second Circle and many throughout the years that belonged in that Third Circle.   I.  I work hard at nurturing friendships and it has paid off for me at that is why I end all my posts by saying:

 Care, share, and stay strong.

IMAGE By one of my college friends at  our various get-togethers.  Haven’t I been blessed.

Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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