Who exactly are our friends? Are they the 148 people who liked our last IG post? Or the 15 who shared today’s FB post with all of their “friends?” And of those we consider our “friends,” which of them would drop everything and come scoop us up when we are in a heap on the floor crying or when we just need someone to sit and talk with (from 6’ away, of course)?
Writer and wellness expert Judy Gaman learned about true friendship from a centenarian (someone 100+ years old) named Lucille Fleming when writing a book about longevity. She shares a few tips describing the different levels of friendship.
Friendship Redefined: Are You Ready to Level Up?
If you ask your parents and grandparents what it takes to be a friend, their answers may be quite different than the way the current vernacular reflects the word friend. It used to be a word revered for those in your most inner circle, the ones who not only knew the real you, but would defend you and all your quirkiness, perhaps even risking the friendship itself if they thought being truthful during a debate was in your personal best interest.
With the invention of social media, so-called friends can be in the hundreds or even thousands. These friends get on your good side by simply taking an interest in your posts. A simple “like” may seemingly take that friend a step higher, and sharing your post to their page or audience – whoa – that takes the relationship to a whole new level. Not so fast. The reality is that an inflated number of friends on social media can leave people deceived. How many of those friends could you call, or better yet instant message, at 1am because you’re stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire?
Maybe the true test is to imagine yourself in pajamas with no makeup on and standing in your living room surrounded by all these “friends.” If that thought gives you anxiety, then you’re not alone. Most people only post what they want people to see, or who they want people to think they are 24/7. This only creates a dichotomy of the very essence of friendship. But, since the word is not going away anytime soon, perhaps it would be healthy to start categorizing our friends by different levels.
Level 1 – Not really a friend
We probably all have many of these, probably more than we ever imagined if we combine Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other platforms. Many of these are the friends that are friend by label only. Some of these people you may not even recognize if you passed them on the street. Many of these are really a friend of a friend, someone in business that you somehow became connected with, or just someone that you connected with through a common interest.
Level 2- Acquaintance
Most people can go through their social media connections and pluck out a few people that they may not be bosom buddies with, but they may want to invite to parties or events. At this level the person would not only know who you are, but be likely to attend something you’ve extended an invitation to.
Level 3 – Holidays and Parties Friend
I like to call this the 6-month gang. These are the friends that you see about twice a year, have a great time, but don’t really have a need to connect again anytime soon. You may have a real interest in each other’s lives, but that interest is more superficial, meaning you can catch up, walk away, and you can both call each at any time. Your numbers are usually stored in each other’s phones at this level.
Level 4 – Good Buddy
This level is where most true friendships sit. If you get to this level, you have a real friend, the kind your parents were talking about. Friends that make it to level 4 generally know enough about the other to place their order at a restaurant, or know their weekly routine. They have seen them on more than one occasion without makeup or when they’re feeling under the weather. Not only are the numbers stored in their phones, but you can usually find it under recent calls.
Level 5 – True Blue
Often this is where you’ll find most married couples, especially if it’s a good long-lasting relationship. This level is the secret-sharing, runny-nose crying, jump up and down happy, bail-out, give your last dime to kind of friendship. Level 5 friendship is what makes life worth living.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably thought about your own level of friends. Maybe you’ve sat back and reassessed your social media. You could even be smiling at the thought of a level 4 or level 5 friend. But, what you may not have thought about is where others would place you. As we all look at 2020 through a new lens (and a mask), ask yourself if you’ve stopped and taken the time to cultivate some friendships. Ask yourself: Am I ready to level up?
Judy Gaman is the CEO of Executive Medicine of Texas (hyperlink: http://www.emtexas.com) and author of the best-selling book Love, Life and Lucille, a book about her own Level 5 friendship with Lucille Fleming, who was over 100 years old. Learn more by visiting www.lovelifelucille.com