Defining Friends, Followers and Fans
Updated: Aug 10
Friends can be seen as assistants, colleagues and companions, but instead of paying them with money, we pay and are paid with the value of trust, loyalty and affection. The more we trust the person in front of us, the more confident we feel to be more open to them, and vice versa, if the relationship is mutual.
A friendship with no trust is like a boat in a river without the ability to move; it will eventually fall into a waterfall and get destroyed. Thus, trust is imperative to any friendship, as it is imperative to any desired relationship that does not have a potential of deception. Decieve your friends, and you will decieve the alliance you've built with them. When it is done for your own interests, it's called manipulation. Darth Sidious from Star Wars was an excellent manipulator, for example. Thus, he didn't really have any true friends, as he treated everyone like pawns.
I would like to argue that all lovers are friends, but of course, not vice versa. When you have true love with someone, and they feel the same, that is perhaps the deepest bond of friendship you can ever have with a human being. Feel free to correct me.
Since trust is not unique to friendships, the combination that indeed makes them more distinctive than any other relationships is trust plus a certain degree of affection, even if that affection is not as strong as in other types of relationships. Obviously, a true friendship with someone is one that you not only trust but actually like them as a person. That liking of them makes you want to be closer to them emotionally or otherwise, than with other people.
The more affectionate we are to each other, the more friends we are. Such degree of warmth is crucial to even relationships that are more than mere friends, such as romantic relationships and marriages. After all, a marriage is likely to last longer when the couple is friends with one another, meaning that they not only trust one another but also like one another.
It is important to distinguish between having a liking and between loving. Emotions are complex and to understand them properly may require a high degree of emotional intelligence not everyone has. When you love someone romantically, you won't necessarily like them. That is called a love-hate relationship. You do not like someone when you hate them.
Long ago, having friends meant an increased chance of survival. The social aspect of our existence has been pushed aside, into the realm of leisure and at times luxury. Unless you happen to be very lonely when alone, and if you are not willing to fully endure in solitude, one can say some of us indeed need more companionship than others. That's because it fills a void in their hearts, and at times gives them something to think about, or even live for, which is legitimate.
Some of us fear the emptiness inside. Existential emptiness. Friendships also exist to help us either escape or cope with that.
If you want your voice to be heard, you don't necessarily need friends to trust or to feel affectionate towards if you don't want. Not all of us are warm, highly-affectionate beings who wish to make personal connections with anyone we are introduced to or introduce ourselves to.
The contemporary era has created the long-used term of followers, a term that can simply be described as people who are constantly updated with your content, or generally with what you have to say.
Organic following are simply human followers who follow you online voluntarily, as a display of interest in your activities. They are far less than friends, and you might not even communicate with them at all. The opposite of an organic follower is a fake follower. They are accounts that are sold to follow you on social media, to give the impression of having a large online presence.
You no longer need to start a religion, a cult, or a movement in order to gain real followers -- all you have to do is to give others the reason to click on whatever button makes them notified by the internet whenever you post content. That's at least how followers are recognized nowadays.
Beyond its contemporary usage, a follower was simply a supporter, a believer, or companion of someone (who are not necessarily their friends. An apprentice, for example, can be regarded as a very loyal follower. Darth Vader, however, was not a friend of his master).
Following can also be described as either supporting or agreeing with someone. However, this description is no longer necessary, as anyone can follow you online even if they don't support or even agree with you. They may simply be interested in your content.
The term, so it seems, has lost its original "charm" like any other pieces of modern technology has lost their sense of wonder and progression. Nonetheless, followers are obviously imperative to anyone who wants to have their voice heard without the need to form affectionate relationships with others, like with friends.
Having followers is also profitable when they are monetized. You can sell them products and they even may be inclined to click on ads you may post in your content. Thus, your online support can even help you earn. Social media influencers essentially live on the loyalty of their followers.
When you create an interpersonal connection with your followers, you and they specifically become a community. Consider that higher than a normal following. Because a community has more loyalty than an average follower who can leave whenever they like. A community is enforced by loyalty to either you or to your brand.
And finally, we have the most tricky type of people at all -- fans. I am saying they are tricky because fans on one hand are supporters of the highest order, like "elite" followers or "elite" friends, but on the other hand they are like soldiers that require maintenance and that can rebel against you, should your actions not satisfy their desire to admire. John Lennon, after all, was murdered by a fan, and celebrities such as actors can receive death threats by certain fans if they do something they do not like.
Being a fan is more about admiring the image you have in your mind about someone, than that very own someone. The two are different from one another. It can be claimed that most of us are fans of at least something or someone -- a band, a politician, a movie franchise, and so on.
Should that figure take a turn that will not please us, some of us might be upset or triggered -- but those with far greater "fanaticism" than us might even make a few actions against them, from personal attacks to the mentioned death threats. So, while fans are desired by those who seek fame, some of them can be very unhinged.
You've noticed I used the word "fanaticism", and that is because the term "fan" actually came from it. It's like the term "Nazi" comes from "National Socialism" and so on. While not every fan is necessarily an extremist fanatic, there can be a few "rotten tomatoes" that will give their fandoms a bad image by taking their admiration a step bit too far.
Regardless -- being a fan is more often than not a one-sided admiration. Usually, when you are the more important figure of the "relationship", AKA connection. You can say that a fan is like having someone be both your friend and follower without you having to be their friend or follower as well. It is a one-sided relationship, one that says "I know you more than you know me", and this is why it is hard to obtain unless you are incredibly famous.
Either way, all of what I just described is hard to achieve en masse, and sometimes, it is hard to achieve at all. Every interaction, big or small, is like working as an advertiser 24/7, with your own brand being the product you promote, intentionally or not. That brand may even be you as a person.
For some, especially those who only wish to pass the time or feel worthy to someone, one or two friends might just as well be enough for them, and there are indeed people who need such acquaintances. However, if you have a message you want (or need) to bring to the world, few friends will not be enough, and that is why, thanks to the virtual world, there is little need for friendships in order to get publicity.
The term itself, "Social Media", does not include all that it has to provide to its users, as not every action you can make in it has necessarily something to do with socializing. That's especially true with strangers, who just might as well hear that you died and wouldn't care a bit. It is just another word for "Forum".
If you want to find friends -- true friends, with trust and a small degree of affection -- the outside, face-to-face world can give you a greater chance at that.