Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Facebook friends - Who are you again?

I was eavesdropping the other day at Starbucks (ok, what do you do at a coffee shop after you’ve finished reading the paper?) and I had a little chuckle listening a group of ladies comparing numbers. “I have 226,” said one, to which the other retorted, “Ha, that’s nothing, I have 552!” to which a sombre-looking young thing sighed, “Oh, I haven’t broken a hundred yet.”

For a minute I thought they were comparing their own cholesterol count (I mean, it couldn’t have been their male conquests ... could it?), when I realized they were too skinny and too young to be taking Crestor. Nope, these fine young ladies were comparing the number of Facebook friends they have amassed. Ah yes, the new badge of honour: the accumulation of friends, contacts, followers and fans on your social media pages. The meaning here is simple: the more you have, the more popular you are.

The #552 gal made me really think about the meaning of friendship. I mean, how can anyone can have 552 friends? Who was she – Kim Kardashian (for those over 40, Kim Kardashian had this sex tape released a few years ago and her father is .. oh never mind, it would take too long to explain). As for me, I can count about 10 close friends, and that’s on a good day.

Which got me thinking: has the word “friend” taken on new meaning in the social media sphere? Have social media sites devalued our meaning of friends? We keep adding and adding friends and contacts, but what do we do with them? How close a friend are they? Do you tell your Facebook friends your secrets or your innermost thoughts? Do you tell them that you cheated on your expense report (okay, don’t even tell a good friend that one!)? Has your offline interaction with your friends been taken over by posts on your Facebook page?

In social media terms, more means better, more means popular, more means influence, more means more. What happened to quality in all this?

I’m not that impressed with the accumulation of your so-called friends and followers on your social media sites. Nope, as an aging boomer, here’s what impresses me:

The number of cool people you can get at your house party with little notice;
The number of high profile people sitting on your charity board;
The number of birthday cards (real cards only) you get every year;
The number of people who fly to your wedding in a remote Caribbean island – which they paid for themselves;
And lastly and most importantly, the number of people at your funeral who didn’t come just for the food at the wake.

As the great Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it."

Take that, Facebook!


amandalaird said...

I'm with you, Julie. I think that social networking sites are really devaluing the word "friend."

John Sacke said...

I absolutely agree Julie ... just look at the state of our kids' friendships. My son (11) can have a friend come over and for two hours, they'll say nothing. I mean absolutely nothing to one another. Why? They're playing Nintendo. What's their high school reunion going to look like in 30 years? A bunch of recluses, each bringing with them an assortment of video games and weird looking electronic contraptions? You'll only hear bleeps, blips and computer noises ... nothing else

Dunno ... that's not a reunion I would want to be at ...

John Carson said...

Hi Julie,

I agree, and wrote about this -- with a Twitter slant -- last month.


amandalaird said...

Incidentally, after reading your post last night I opened a magazine article that was about setting goals and accentuating our positives. One of the positive things to focus on was, "I have over 100 friends on Facebook!" Perhaps anyone who is counting that on their list of positives need to read through your post.

Julie Rusciolelli said...

Thanks for the comments folks. i don't want to pooh-pooh facebook, but I just hope that in 10 years from now we aren't just keeping tabs with our friends via a social media site. I still need a hug once in awhile. And congrats to Ashton Kutcher

who just landed one million people following him on twitter. Who gives a flying &$^$^@!!!

Now this will give something for Oprah to do ...

Ian O'Neill said...

The word 'friend' is evolving. The isolation caused by Web technology will motivate change. 'Transparency' is a word we hear increasingly often; open communication without agenda is becoming a goal, partly in reaction to this isolation. Isolation drives the solution, that is greater honesty paid for at great social cost. In the end it's all good, it's mother nature pushing us a notch higher up the evolutionary ladder.

Anne said...

mmm. guess I'll be paying more attention to those expense reports....

jacob jacob said...

Bang on. Have always wondered about this ... even 100+ 'friends' are a bit much!