With Facebook, who needs friends?

About a month ago I ‘Friended’ someone who I hadn’t heard from in years. Out of habit, I put them on one of my Facebook lists, which I use to keep people posted about the goings on in my life. As a poetry reading event approached a couple of weeks later, I sent out a mass message via my Friends lists. Within couple of a days, I received a message from my new amigo informing me that he was disappointed I’d sent him a mass message, and not a personal one. He was, in fact, offended.

Offended? Really?

Irritated, sure. Annoyed? Hey, I feel the same way looking through the fliers in my post box.

But offended?

Besides the fact that just about everyone is offended these days – from religious leaders to politicians to environmental and special interest groups to even five-year-old kids – I have to ask, should Facebook Friends demand so much?

Now, I am assuming that my alleged offense was that I slighted this person. But to be slighted by someone, you have to have some kind of social precedent, at least a distant history of a genuine friendship in the first place. What expectation can arise from simply clicking the ‘Confirm’ tab?

Dear Facebook Friends, I’m going to be straight with you here. I have about 240 of you, and I consider a tiny percentage of that to be actual, real friends. To be considered a real friend, I have a list of requirements. If you can say yes to any one of these things, I most likely consider you my friend:

1. I’ve visited you in hospital (or vice-versa).
2. I’ve given you a late night ride to the airport, train station or bus depot (or vice-versa).
3. I’ve slept on your couch, kitchen floor, futon, or living room carpet (or vice-versa).
4. We’ve had at least five face-to-face coffee seasons.
5. Lisa has given you ‘the nod.’

Of course there is a statute of limitations on these requirements, but other than that, it’s pretty simple. If you can say yes to any of these things then you’re probably a friend, and if not then you are quite possibly an acquaintance, colleague, artistic peer, or mostly likely you are a detractor, and I will be coming for you soon. (Also: Husbands, friends of your wives aren’t your friends, but your in-laws. Remember that).

I might be wrong. There could very well be an array of obligations that one takes on when Friending someone on this social network, and I have been completely unaware of it all this time. Then again, I have never had high expectations from someone solely on their status of a Facebook Friend. I’ve always seen for what I believe it really is: a convenient way for a bunch of people to communicate and exchange ideas with each other.

If anyone thinks there is any more depth to it than that, they are taking far too seriously a social network that flourishes upon people’s innate need for attention. Let’s face it, if there is a slogan for Facebook, it would be “LOOK AT ME!” Disagree? Then why all the personal pics and info? In this day and age of identity theft, wouldn’t it be wiser to use a pseudonym? Or is it just too tempting to attach your genuine moniker to the latest profile update you think so very clever?

Now, someone I know – I can’t say who, but let’s just say she her name sounds a lot like Kisa Leophila, and that she is my wife – has been planning to prune her Facebook Friends. Why should they be on my friends list? This unnamed person demands, hammering her drunken fist onto the living room coffee table. I never hear from them anyway, except for their stupid mass messages! My response to this is, and has always been: who cares? As an artist, it’s always good to have more contacts and to keep abreast of what’s going on in the local community and beyond (heck, I get mass announcements from Jamaica). But aside from that, is it really worth the half – hour to go through this library of thumbnails to judge yea or nay on a group of mostly conceptual friendships?

Perhaps we are experiencing the problem that the cyber punk science fiction writers of yesterday warned us about: due to exposure, the conceptual is become reality, and these imagined friendships, based on nothing but a series of forty-character exchanges have begun to take on the trappings of something genuine, with all its responsibilities and expectations. In other words, the longer we spend with are Facebook Friends, the more we demand of them, and the less we need of our real friends.

My advice, if you are feeling slighted by one of your Friends, log off, pick up the phone and go out for coffee with a real one.

November’s Top Vids

5. C.S. Lewis once said, “Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see.” If this quote applies to this young lady, one can only imagine the screenplay that the almighty has in store for her.


4. Prisencolinensinainciusol. When I first watched this video, I thought the makers were just being retro. Apparently this is what English sounds like to non-English speakers. And what a beat! The release date was 1972, and some theorize that this could be the first rap song.


3. This is an alternate ending to Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz. Wait for the Spanish lilt!


2. This proves that I am too old and totally out of the loop. My wife had to show this to me.


1.Tilda Swinton reads from one of the most clever and innovative novels in recent memory, “The Raw Shark Texts”.


Other People’s Poetry


Job Davies, eighty-five
Winters old, and still alive
After the slow poison
And treachery of the seasons.

Miserable? Kick my arse!
It needs more than the rain’s hearse,
Wind-drawn, to pull me off
The great perch of my laugh.

What’s living, but courage?
Paunch full of hot porridge,
Nerves strengthened with tea,
Peat-black, dawn found me

Mowing where the grass grew,
Bearded with the golden dew.
Rhythm of the long scythe
Kept this tall frame lithe.

Mowing where the grass grey,
Bearded with golden dew.
Rhythm of the long scythe
Kept this tall frame lithe.

What to do? Stay green.
Never mind the machine,
Whose fuel is human souls.
Live large, man, and dream small.

by R.S Thomas

If you do any of these things, you are part of the problem.

3. Hang rubber testicles from the tailgate of your truck.

Imagine the time it takes to drive to the store, enter the store, look for a large rubber scrotum, wait in line, purchase the scrotum, drive home, get out your tool box, read the directions on the package, open the package, take out the scrotum, get down on your knees, make sure you have enough clearance between the bottom of the scrotum and the road, and then attach the rubber scrotum to your tailgate.

This is how some people fill their days. One can only imagine their thoughts when deciding who to vote for in national elections. And don’t kid yourself: Bush got re-elected AFTER Katrina and Abu Ghraib. They vote.

2. Fight in Public.

Ah, there is nothing like taking a leisurely Sunday walk on a warm sunny day, strolling twenty feet behind a couple adoringly punctuating the air with expletives. Every block or so, one will stop, turn towards the other, wave their hands in the air like a tree in a windstorm, and utter, with vein-popping volume, a term of endearment only slightly obscured by an over-abundance of spittle. They continue on this way, and as much as you wish to leave these lovebirds to this mating dance, they magically seem to know your intended route. Trying to slow down won’t help, and by attempting to pass them, you risk getting saliva on your clothing.

I’ve always wondered why these couples to decide to go for a walk together in the first place. Do they think, Well the neighbours have gone out, we need SOMEONE to witness our passion! Or, is it that, in the heat of the moment, when one of them heads for the door, the other says, Wait! We need to scream a little more about this!!

Really though, the worst are those who decide to clear out a crowded bus stop by hollering threats into the receivers of their little cell phones. Invariably, these are young men with bruised egos and plaster casts on their forearms who have decided to relegate a confrontation to a nice, safe distance.

For both the “passionate” couples and the angry young men, these actions are simply the result of poor life choices due to momentary bouts of stupidity, and the delusional idea that uncouth behaviour is justified when one has an audience.

Well, celebrities do this all the time! Well yes, from time to time, Lindsay Lohan has a hissy-fit, but she has the money to spin her trashy behaviour into a bad-girl image. And while your behaviour is trashy, I can only assume by the stained track pants you’re wearing, you don’t have the money for a team of publicists. Of course the biggest difference between you and Lindsay, besides the Hollywood connections and several million dollars, is that Lindsay has a willing audience. Yours is missing the element of willingness, which means that it is not, in fact, an audience, but a scared group of hostages.

My advice? Sulk. Be passive-aggressive. If more people did this, there would be far fewer mouthy dictators and late night talk show hosts in the world.

1. Believe the Earth is six thousand years old.

Unlike what some world leaders would have you believe, the jury is not out, and there is no controversy to teach. Such a belief betrays ignorance so willful – one would have to dismiss so much of what has been discovered in the last 400 years – that believing in a flat Earth would be an easy step to take.

And why not? To accept the idea of a young Earth, one would have to dismiss radio carbon dating, the speed of light (first estimated by Ole Christensen Rømer in the 17th century), and anything seen out of the telescope since Galileo in the 16th century. Discoveries that have ensued from these developments can do nothing but shed light on the true age of the Earth and its environs, which happens to be about 12-13 billion years older. To put the error of this belief into context, it has been said that believing the Earth is six thousand years old (rather than its true age of about 4.5 billion years) is the equivalent to believing the width of the US, from coast to coast, is roughly seven metres.

In light of this, to believe the Earth is flat isn’t such a big step. You’ve already gone so far as to blunt your world-view to the foot or so distance you need to read from your holy doctrines, why not finish the job and commit yourself to the belief that those taking a Carnival Cruise court death by tumbling over the edge of the earth?

Yes I am irritated. I always get irritated when I dwell on this topic. But why shouldn’t I be? Such people – and there are millions of them in North America – pressed by a terror of ambiguity, have forced themselves into a black and white, medieval mindset, and wish the same mindset upon their children and the children of others, with the hopes that more people grow up believing that this planet is nothing but a weigh station (some even refer to it as Hell); a waiting room they can treat as they like while praying for entrance to an eternal theme park.

There is very little advice I can offer here. People must come to terms with their inevitable nothingness on their own. What I can offer is simply to travel to places where your religion or creed is a minority, and to be an omnivorous reader.