All friends cannot be labeled the same

“Oh,” he intoned. “So you two are friends?”

Kevin Wilson

Kevin Wilson

We gave each other a brief glance, each unsure how and by whom the query should be handled. We were spending time together, getting along splendidly, and in a setting where neither of us would argue this was a date.

“Yeah, that’s it,” she responded to break the hesitation, with a tone that said, “I guess so.”

A few weeks have passed, and a significant portion of our interactions since happened through social networking. A private message here, a comment there, a “Like” button click plenty of other times.

One night, during a Facebook check, I got a followup notification from the comment on another friend’s photo. “John Arrington (friends with Sheila Williams) also commented on Sheila Williams’ photo.”

I chuckled and said, “I know he’s friends with Sheila; he couldn’t comment otherwise. You’re not telling me anything, Facebook.”

That’s when it hit me like Wile E. Coyote hitting the ground, foiled once again by the Road Runner. Can’t we further define what a friend is?

Take your preferred social network and find the first five people on your wall/stream/ timeline. Do you have the same emotions, experiences and values for all five of them? Obviously not; so why label them the same?

The seminal moment in “The Social Network” comes when Mark Zuckerberg figures out what will make thefacebook.com tick is when people can instantly see a person’s relationship. What I’m proposing is one step deeper: Friend classifications.

The first one is easy: Relatives. I don’t need to be notified when Jennifer’s mother also posts a comment, because it’s likely to be a doting one that has nothing to do with what I said.

Next is spouses. Kind of the same rules here.

Each level brings us to more tangential friendship descriptions. Here are a few that could be applied:

• Best friends with Kevin in high school

• Best friends with Kevin in college

• Guy who would bail Kevin out of jail, no questions asked

• Guy most likely to get Kevin thrown in jail

• Non-threatening ex-girlfriend of Kevin

• Girl Kevin’s been trying to date since meeting at a party

• Kinda knew Kevin in high school

• Kinda knew Kevin in college

• Very distant relative of Kevin

• Guy Kevin met at random function, but would likely never hang out with

• The three or four categories you’ve thought of while reading this list.

You think it’s crazy, and too much for a social network to do? Remember that last week Facebook created gender options, and you can now choose from more than 50 different genders. Bet we could all spend an hour with our “friend” list and figure out almost as many categories as we have friends.

Netflix creates movie categories we never knew existed (“1980s Movies With Conflicts That Peak at the Prom”), so why can’t we create friend categories we’ve always known existed but never admitted?

Cue the hindsight machine, as we revisit how I wish the exchange could have gone.

“Oh,” he intoned. “So you two are friends, then?”

“You could say that for now,” I say, before raising an eyebrow. “But we’re still working on categorization.”

Kevin Wilson is a columnist for Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 319, or by email:

kwilson@cnjonline.com

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