By the time you read this, I will have amassed 2,500 "friends" on Facebook. Ridiculous, right? I can't count to 2,500, even on a good day.
While I don't take Facebook and online privacy as seriously as some people do (I'll prove it: facebook.com/ernestwilkins—come say hey), I did recently find myself wondering who these folks are. Who am I sharing the most intimate moments of my existence with? What does a "friend" even mean in the age of social media and all that jazz? (Yikes, that last sentence sounds like a title from a panel discussion I never want to attend.)
Let me break down the different levels of friendship, if only so you can check yourself before you wreck yourself. Call it the who and what of hanging out.
Level 5: The besties
These amazing human beings know everything there is to know about you ... and still answer your calls! You can talk about every possible topic—whether it's poop, love or some sort of disgusting hybrid with no judgment. They've heard about your occasional weird sex dreams about "Macho Man" Randy Savage and pulled pork-covered waffle fries and still love you! If you're still wondering if your buds are up to snuff, ask this question: "If I died tomorrow, could I trust that you would break into my house with the sole purpose of destroying my computer so my mom never finds out how totally disgusting I am?" If they say no or hesitate at ALL, they aren't Level 5. I'm on the hook for no fewer than three home invasions, because that's how my crew and I roll.
Level 4: Your goons
Not as close as the besties, these folks include your college buddies, the people you see at brunch every weekend and whoever's lucky enough to be in a long-term relationship with you. The main difference between the levels is that you can do absolutely nothing with your Level 5 buds and have a blast, but Level 4 usually means that some kind of event or activity is needed to justify a hangout. Sadly, a lot of relationships stay here in life. It happens.
Level 3: Everyday livin'
Immediate vicinity co-workers. Friends of friends. People you spend St. Patrick's Day with, but not Black Wednesday, get me? Basically anyone you share experiences with and have no qualms about getting hammered in front of. These are the people you always promise "Ohhhh, let's get drinks soon!" But guess what? YOU NEVER DO.
Level 2: Business casual
This group is most of the people at your office, including your bosses and most other adults in your life. More often than not, your neighbors and anyone whom you "network" with reside here too. They'll "like" your FB status and say "happy birthday" via social media, but only because there's a built-in reminder system.
Level 1: Strangers
That guy who smells like pee and hash browns on the train. Those a-holes at the bar. Anyone who says "we" when referring to sports teams. Screw these people. You don't owe them anything and should live your life accordingly.
See? I hope that helps. Now, go forth and be the best bud you can be. Also, enough with the "let's get drinks/brunch soon" BS. Nobody's fooling anybody.
ERNEST WILKINS IS CHICAGO'S WINGMAN. ERWILKINS@TRIBUNE.COM | @ERNESTWILKINS