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