I’m not sure how or why it has happened, but the word friend has seemed to change meaning over time. The word friend use to be a powerful word. People used it to differentiate people they could count on and trust from all the other people they knew. Now it seems that it is used as a catch-all word and has lost a lot of its luster.
I have heard it used to describe people someone knows, works with, has heard about, or is vaguely familiar with. I guess it is easier to use than to just say “someone I know” or to actually describe the relationship you have with the person you are talking about. Then with social networking sites you throw in a whole new usage for the word. I believe this has contributed heavily to the convoluted usage of the word friend.
How can someone use the word friend to describe people they only talk to or associate with online? Can someone really be your friend if you can’t or won’t take the time to see them? I know that a lot of people have “friends” on their friends list that they don’t even know. I guess it makes them feel more popular or more important to have a bigger list. Maybe I’m old fashion, but I just don’t think you can build a strong bond with someone who you only interact with online. How can you go through experiences that would show you that the other person is trustworthy or dependable? I always thought friendship was something that developed and was earned. It was kind of like a badge of honor.
In the end, I guess it just depends on what you believe a friend really is. If you believe that friends are just casual acquaintances you know, then feel free to continue slinging it around and use it to describe anyone and everyone. If you actually think it should be used to describe someone who is close to you that you can trust and depend on, then think before you use the word. Maybe the word friend can get some of its meaning back.