Facebook and Friendship

Personally a friend is someone I can share my ups and downs with.  They support me when times are tough and we live up the good times together.  I hold my friends dear to my heart and always strive to make ‘real’ friends. Friendship is even more important to me now that I live away from people in my home country.  It has been a struggle for me at times, and I’ve found life as an ‘expat’ or as ‘the other’ isolating and alienating.  Facebook once saved me from this suffering and when it first came out it was important for me to feel ‘liked’ and to have as many friends as possible.  In fact I went to the point of accumulating over six hundred friends,but did I know them? Did they really fit into my personal category of what makes a friend?  How real were these friends? These questions beckoned some thinking from me over the break and I’ve had a change of heart with my facebook page and who I want to be connected with.

On my recent trip home to Australia a friend of mine from high school commented to me that she had recently gone through her facebook friendship list and defriended many of the people she’d hooked back up with from high school.  She lived in the same town with many of these people and her logic was that none of them ever talked to her in real life, so what was the point of having them connected to her as a friend on facebook.  A logic that I’m beginning to come around to.

Another friend of mine at school commented on how she and a person she’d once worked with had left on bad terms.  When he requested for her to be his friend on facebook she declined, but she was happy to have him as an acquaintance on   Linkedin a professional version of facebook.

My husband is an Indonesian and his idea of a friend is different from mine.  He is very sociable and has a large network of what I would call ‘acquaintances’ , he doesn’t really have a close group of friends, but he is very happy to socialize with everyone on any occasion and he thinks it’s important to keep these networks of acquaintances alive as you never know when you need them.  How many sticky situations has he got me out of because of a friend he’d met along the way.  My husband’s facebook page has over 800 friends and he is very happy to keep on accumulating these people in his friendship list.  However, I have now begun the cumbersome process of defriending people from my facebook page and really thinking about what this platform is really for. So far it’s taken hours for me to defriend 100 of them.  Do I really want to waste my time with people that I don’t really know, that I don’t really share my life with?  Obviously not.

As I get older and wiser, I think back to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s thoughtful philosophy on friendship ‘make friendship an art’.  For me that art means we need to refine and redefine.  I want to learn and share my life with people who are interested in sharing their lives with me.  If it means through an electronic platform or on a personal day to day to day basis then so be it,but I will definitely get back to wilting down the number of people listed as my friends on facebook.

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6 thoughts on “Facebook and Friendship”

  1. Interesting post as usual, Sam.

    I had a similar epiphany a while back, when I realized that I was simply wasting time with Facebook. I, like you, had originally created an account to keep in touch with folks back home. However, it didn’t take long before I had accumulated a huge list of acquaintances that I really had no interest in. I found my News Feed was swamped with information that had absolutely no relevance to me, and I had to sift through it to find things about people I genuinely cared about. So, the Great Facebook Cull began; I simply set the following criterion: would I buy this person a pint (or a Coke) at the pub? If the answer was ‘no’, they got the chop!

    Now, this is because I use Facebook as a purely social tool — Twitter is very different for me (as would LinkedIn be, I’m sure). With Twitter, I have no issues with following people who I will most likely never meet (let alone buy a pint for!), because I value what they have to offer me professionally. I try to contribute from time to time as well, but I look at Twitter as a big, messy resource for me to gather news and ideas from.

    1. I use my twitter as a resource too,but find with instagram I’m collecting friends like I did when facebook first came out, however I’m selective about the types of photos people are taking. I hope I can be as ruthless as you when I continue to wilt my list of friends down,but it does take time.

  2. I have a had a tumultuous ride with Facebook. You can read some of my thoughts here:
    http://intrepidflame.blogspot.com/search/label/Facebook

    Start backwards and move forward.

    I think all of these tools, if used honestly and authentic will connect us to people who are similar to us, who challenge our thinking, who we need. I am not a fan of the term “real” and virtual. There are people behind each tweet, each photo, each FB status update. It doesn;t matter to me whether or not I have met them in real my life, if they bring value to my life. I have gone out of my way to meet people I have known online and now this group of people who started out as members of a network, became a community, and some are moving towards real friends and almost like family.

    We peak into each others lives and build pictures out of the pixels we find in the mosaics. I try to find people I am interested in and I try to be useful and interesting for others.

    These changing social dynamics have a tremendous effect on how we socialize…I for one find it fascinating.

  3. I was a late-comer to facebook, not out of ignorance but active avoidance – took me a while to “get it” – but i’m not sure that i do.

    Frey constantly makes fun of me because i have more friend requests than i do actual friends on facebook.

    Maybe i’ve got it wrong, but my criteria is simple – if i’ll look you up when i’m town then i’ll be your facebook friend.

    Maybe it’s a little snobby – but almost everytime i check in with facebook now i read interesting tidbits from interesting people than i actually know and like.

    It’s working for me.

  4. Your thoughts sure resonate with me Sam. Thanks for sharing. I dont mind peeking in a people’s lives or having them peek at mine. In fact, it is fun when out of the blue I grab the attention of someone I forgot was a FB friend. The word ‘friend’ is a misnomer though for all the people on our FB lists. Maybe the word ‘voyeur’ is more suitable!

  5. Well I’m one of those people that really picks and chooses who I add as a friend on FB. I generally do something similar to what Jacqui does : “Would I put you up if you came to stay with me?” “Would I want to meet up with you if we were in the same country?” If the answer is “yes” I’ll confirm friend requests or send out a friend request.

    The tricky thing is when former students want to be “friends.” My rule is never add a former student until s/he has finished first year at college. If they still want to be “friends” after that, I’ll confirm the request. It’s nice to keep up with where their lives are going, but they’re not really my friends are they? (And I never, eve, ever, add current students. EVER. Even if I’ve left the school. The students are still in school and to me it’s not right).

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