I made a possibly socially unacceptable decision yesterday- I just deleted 50 people out of my online life on Facebook; a mixture of acquaintances, friends of friends, people I met on Erasmus, friends and relatives of exs, and a couple of annoying family members whom I never see. I even hid the activities of some of my other Facebook friends, the ones that it’s not okay to cull due to the tendency to bump into them on a regular basis.
That I can’t even describe these people as friends is very telling. Of course, they’re not real-life friends. Pre-FB, if I bumped into them once a year, it would be completely random. There would never even be that awkward social convention of agreeing to meet up for coffee or lunch with both sides knowing that meetup will never happen. It was easier to say accept as friends on Facebook than have them mention the FB invite when you bumped into them next in the queue for coffee in the student restaurant. Seeing as I would rarely interact with several people on FB, it was being able to say that I had 200 friends on Facebook which seemed to be important.
Facebook has skewed our idea of what it means to be friends so badly. If you’re friends on Facebook, does it really mean that you’re friends in real-life? While it’s handy keeping up to date with some of the bigger events in people’s lives, it’s not really building a friendship. You’re not really sharing experiences and building memories together, you’re just exchanging information. Instead of sharing your happy or upsetting news with your close friends, a group of probably more than 200 people are hearing it and let’s face it, how many of them care beyond the natural human response of ‘oh, that’s very good/ unfortunate for them’. Instead of sharing our personality and identity, are we now in danger of creating a brand to sell ourselves to our network of people? Why are we so closely honing the photos we’re tagged in and creating hilariously pithy status updates?
I don’t think this experience is unique just to Facebook. Perhaps it is a symptom of how modern friendships are changing towards being friends with as many people as possible rather than keeping a small social group, but maybe it is just the culture of the Internet to try to interact as many people as possible.