I have finally managed to gather 30 friends on Facebook. I suppose that I could have many more if I wanted to share intimate details of my life with people who I don’t really know very well, but as it stands, 30 will be the number for, at least, the foreseeable future. And if I’m being honest about it, I’ve hand-picked them as folks that I think might, from time to time, click on content that I’m creating. So, if any of you are reading this, sorry for the spam.
I can, though, safely know that the people with whom I’ve made this connection on this platform designed to have you share as much information about yourself as possible in order that ads might be targeted at you in a more efficient manner, are friends.
Not to say, however, that everyone that I am friends with shares this connection on Facebook. I have folks in my life that I talk to. We talk in person. Sometimes we text, sometimes we talk on the phone. There are even people with whom I share an occasional email. We manage to connect without “Liking” each other’s posts or arguing about religion and/or politics with people we don’t really know but are connected to the people that we know and we cannot allow them to have the opinion that we hold in such disdain without telling them just exactly how much we disagree with them and how very wrong they are and, by the end, both end up being blocked by the original poster.
I like people. I like talking to them and I like sharing with them. What folks around me appear to have forgotten somehow is that being connected through a money-making machine is not necessarily the hallmark of a friendship.
I started off my Facebook experience by friending and accepting requests from anyone with whom I’d shared any amount of time and space, no matter how dismally unimportant it may have been. I then began eliminating them as I realized that I didn’t care that “Benjamin is going to the gym,” or that “Sylvia is tired.” Off with their proverbial heads.
For a couple of years I had an account solely so that I could manage the business accounts of companies who employed me to do so. It’s a sort of ‘best of all worlds’ situation in which the goal was not social capital, but, rather, click capital. I do not have to engage unless engaged with, and I am merely the guy behind the curtain pulling the levers.
But this is not good enough for some people.
I have had the grave misfortune to have received messages from people that I know who are actually offended that we are not friends on Facebook. One such message contained the rather creepily high-schoolish line, “I thought we were friends, but it looks like we’re not since you won’t accept my friend request.” This from a person in her 30s.
Imagine the mental state of an individual who believes that connecting thus is the means by which one declares friendship. To be fair, we are several thousand kilometres apart from each other, so a means by which we can stay in contact that is convenient and inexpensive is a great thing to have in order to continue such a friendship.
However, we had, somehow, managed to communicate with each other over great distances prior to the invention of Facebook. So, it pains me to think that, now that a platform exists whereby she can share with me her photos of her private vacation villa rentals in Barbados, or her new dog with, not just me, but the many hundreds of people who have declared themselves to be friends with this person.
Of course, it’s about more than just sharing that with me. No one shares bikini photos just so that people can see them. Oh no, those pictures are shared so that they can be “Liked,” thereby giving the person who has posted the picture some semblance of satisfaction with their life, especially when everyone leaves a comment about how beautiful they are.
This, of course, is not just about bikinis or even about a specific gender of Facebooker, if you will. This is about people searching for a sense of satisfaction that doesn’t really exist, but is felt as “Friends” follow the new social contract, which states that, sincere or not, you must say how cute someone’s cat/dog/baby/haircut/dress/socks/etc is. If you do not, you are, quite simply, a shitty friend in this brave new world of social cowardice.
Marriages are now ended because a spouse did not do enough “Liking” of their significant other’s posts. Friendships are decided on whether or not one is willing to buy into the new social contract, and, for fuck sakes, people name their children based on whether or not they’ll be able to get a customized Facebook URL for them or not.
Not only is Facebook not necessary for a friendship, but it’s actually a way of creating a rift between people who, otherwise… well, let’s face it, they’d probably find something else to be pissed off about, wouldn’t they?