Fans vs. Friends

In our celebrity culture, obtaining fans becomes the highest possible means of self-actualization. One can literally measure one's cultural value just by checking how many "friends" (scare-quotes intentional) you have on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and fans in the audience of your life. But lurking under the fine veneer of fandom we've painted for ourselves is the void of friendlessness. And woe to the man or woman who has many fans but no friends. So what are the differences between fans and friends? Here are 5 of them: Fans cheer when you're good, Friends cheer when you're not Everyone loves a winner. I don't watch much football, but even I watch the Super Bowl. Why? Because I love to watch the best two teams play. I love to watch the winners. If you lead anything, someone will cheer for you, but who's cheering for you when you fail? Who is by your side encouraging you when the adversaries surround? I'll tell you who: a friend, not a fan.

Fans say convenient truth, Friends speak hard truth Fans acknowledge something true—easy truth. Truth about your strengths. Obvious, happy truth. But what about hard truth? Recently I had a friend tell me some hard truth. It wasn't fun for either of us. It even stung a little. But the sting of truth spoken by a friend is a faithful wound—a sign of friendship, not fandom.

Fans are shallow, Friends are deep Fans don't know you. They know your stage presence. They know your writing. They know your leadership. They know what you're good at. Therefore, they develop a two-dimensional, shallow, false view of you. Friends know you—strengths and weaknesses, gifts and growth areas. They know the deep you. And by the way, you need deep. You can't live on shallow relationships. They will warp your soul from its deep design into a twisted, flaky breakable shell.

Fans run from failure, Friends run to help The rise into fandom is euphoric. The albums are selling, the audience is cheering, the opportunities are opening, and everything seems up and to the right. But then you fail. Then you skid. Then something happens. Where are the fans? Cheering at someone else better than you, that's where. That's because fans run from falling stars. But before the crushing weight of failure destroys you, who comes to your aid? Friends. Fans are scared you'll fail. Friends know when you do, you won't be alone.

Fans will destroy you, Friend will save you You've heard the axiom, "don't believe your own press." Well fans are the ones who print the press about you. And once you start to believe your press, you become untethered from the solid ground of reality and float directly toward the stratosphere of self-deception where the oxygen of truth is thin and suffocation is certain. Friends will save you from floating away. They root you, ground you, and keep you alive.

So what are you? Are you a friend or a fan? Do you surround yourself with friends or fans? Now's a good time to decide before the hall is empty and you stand alone on the stage of your life accompanied only by the cavernous silence of fans who've come and gone.