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.