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!