Last night, a friend shared about feeling that making friends online was like taking fast food. Things may be fresh for a while, but won’t last for long. It caused me to ponder the depth of relationships in my life, and whether there is any correlation between depth and source of friendship. While not very scientific, I decided to do a simple classification of people on my contact list.
If the sum of my relationships is who I am, we can see that church forms a critical part of my identity. Though I do not have any concrete data of this at the moment, I can testify that the depth of the relationships with people in the church would definitely be deeper than those formed outside. The church to some may just be a gathering of individuals, but to me it is truly a family. It is my church, my life.
The yellow portion of the chart consists of people whom I met through other structures of society. Stephen Covey talks about this in his book The Speed of Trust as Organizational and Societal trust. Most of these people I met in school, university, through social meetings (e.g. with the Cambodian community in Canberra), and through other friends.
The red portion is something I’ve been thinking about since yesterday. It consists of people whom I wouldn’t know if not for the internet. These include friends made on Couchsurfing during my time in China whose contact I’ve chosen to retain, people from meetup groups that I’ve attended, and even a friend whom I met in an online game and eventually met up with when I visited that city. The longest friendship in this category spans about 10 years—a friend whom I met on IRC.
The purple group of friends are probably the most interesting, as they were made in the most natural of situations, though requiring me to take a step out of my comfort zone to talk with them. These include a solar engineer I chatted with while on a bus in Canberra 5+ years ago, a Spanish family I helped navigate the train in Singapore, people I sat nearby in restaurants, etc. It is a pity that I didn’t maintain contact with some of the people I chatted with in parks in China.
Of course, family will always be family, and as the saying goes, blood is thicker than water.
This is the first time I’ve done an analysis on the relationships in my life, and I think the only surprising thing was the last segment of seemingly “random” friends whom I made. What surprised me was the number of such friends, given my inherently introverted nature. I guess I’ve come a long way :). What I love most about this way of making friends is that chances are that these people are from a different circle compared to the people whom I already know. These people have given me diverse windows to the big world out there.
It would definitely be great if I could reach into the recesses of my memory and increase the data set to include people whom I’ve stopped contact with, and more data such as date of first contact, venue, specific context, depth of relationship, frequency of contact, length of each contact, etc.
All in all, I am thankful for everyone in my life. Whether you are here for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, every single person I had the privilege of knowing is special in my eyes. There will always be those who I passed by, people I may never have a chance to meet again, such as an elderly man scavenging for food in a dustbin near a bus stop in Xiamen, or a middle school teacher I talked with at People’s Park, Chengdu. Perhaps one day I may see a reason for meeting these people.