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The Friend-or-Facebook-Friend Litmus Test

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10/31/2011

Rachel Bertsche photo 2 

I was chatting with a couple during last weekend’s wedding happy hour, when the male half referenced a budding actor that he was “friends with.”

Right on cue, his wife looked at him and said, “Are you friends? Or are you Facebook friends?”

Turns out this guy and the actor in question went to high school together. I’m not sure if they have spoken since. But on Facebook, they have extended and accepted connection requests.

My friend told me that he and his wife have this conversation all the time. He liberally throws around the “friend” label, she’s a bit more selective. Because of this, they’ve come up with some friendship criteria. Namely, if his wife–who he has been with for ten years–hasn’t met this person, or hasn’t at least heard of him, then he’s not a friend.

She’d never heard of the actor friend.

You can imagine how excited this conversation made me. It was pretty weird, actually.

If you’re in a long-term couple, I think this rule is right-on. If you’ve never had occasion to introduce someone to your partner–if you’ve never even seen fit to mention someone–then he probably isn’t really your friend. He’s your Facebook friend. Or, as the wife explained to her husband, “that’s not your friend, that’s someone you know.”

It’s amazing how often we confuse those two things.

Since the does-your-spouse-know-him criteria doesn’t work for everyone, I proposed this rule as well. If you haven’t spoken to someone, at least via email, in two years, then she’s not a friend. She’s a Facebook friend. She’s someone you know.

I keep trying to think of “friends” of mine who would break this rule. People I haven’t spoken to in two years  but I still consider my friends. I can’t.

What do you think of these friend-or-facebook-friend measures? Are they appropriate litmus tests? Is there a better one?

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