In this current age of LinkedIn, Facebook and a dozen other social environments have you noticed that it doesn’t take much more to be a friend than breathing? It used to be that counting someone as a friend meant more than it does today.
Most of the people who I count as friends began as associations with people at work. In some cases they were supervisors, peers and staff in the beginning, but over time and long after we no longer worked together we became friends.
Now I define someone as a friend if they know more about me than what is publicly known online, in print or by mutual association. In other words I have chosen to include them in my inner circle of confidants and trusted people. These folks know when I am happy, sad, angry or depressed by just looking or talking to me because they know what I am usually like most days.
Today it is popular to link up with everyone that will link up with you online. And of course whether it is Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, post your every thought and movement to your list of “friends”. I don’t do this for a variety of reason, not the least of which it is an unproductive use of time that impedes getting “real work” done. I also don’t need to know what everyone else is doing all the time, so I figure they don’t need to know my every move either.
I won’t take up this space to elaborate or repeat all the do’s and don’ts that exist around working relationships, but I will tell you that some of my very best friends where strangers until we worked together. Something about sharing so many hours a day in the same trenches creates common interests and shared experiences that are still relative years after you stopped working for the same company.
So cultivate friendships, and grow professional relationships, but also be real with yourself that not everybody breathing is “your friend” either. Even some of the people I have worked with in the past I thought were friends, dropped that false relationship as soon as one of us left the company. If that is not proof everyone is not a friend I don’t know what is.