I wonder if old definitions of what a “friend” is really apply anymore in our share-everything digital age.
Like most, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. There are days that I’m so grateful for the new connections I’ve made and the ability to rekindle old ones. And there are days that Facebook makes me want to puke, I hate it so much – especially during election season, or anytime someone talks about Chick-Fil-A. Ahem.
Which begs the question: if I had a better definition of who my “friends” are on Facebook, would it make any difference? Would I stop having Facebook Puke Days and only have Facebook Group Hugs?
Admittedly, my definition of a “friend” on Facebook has been somewhat rubberband-y in nature – stretching and contracting as my desire for online interaction spikes wildly.
When I joined Facebook, I was like Ke$ha. I accepted any and all requests from people whose names at least reminded me of someone I know in real life.
Over time, I became annoyed by the onslaught of daily friend requests, including the blind date guy who kissed me in a Chicago parking garage in 1997 (I didn’t want him to. Kiss me, that is. Or friend me.). I purged IRL people who I found toxic, inflammatory or consistently depressing.
When I began blogging, I decided to keep Blog Persona and Non Blog Persona separate for privacy’s sake, and didn’t friend many bloggers.
But by 2011, Ke$ha was back, only in a slightly less slutty skirt. I realized that approximately 275 of my 700 personal Facebook friends are bloggers, most of whom I’ve never met, traded emails with, or would recognize if they walked up to me in a Starbucks.
And now? I don’t really know how I decide who to friend on Facebook.
What I know is this.
I still chew my nails when someone shows up in my “People You May Know” list who I don’t feel I know well enough to “friend”, even if I want to. I wonder if they’re thinking the same thing, or if they even know who I am. Sometimes, this ends up in a virtual one-sided standoff: I won’t friend them if they don’t think I’m friend enough to friend me themselves. HUH?
I still get annoyed that some of my friends are closed-minded, overzealous or inflammatory, and they don’t even realize it – or maybe they don’t care.
I still want to scream when some friends don’t seem to have anything ever go wrong in their perfect little Martha Stewart lives.
I still wonder if I should friend people with whom I work directly.
I still get frustrated when I really want to post a status update but can’t because of who might read it.
But I also know this:
I truly, truly enjoy seeing updates from people I knew in elementary, high school and college – even the ones with whom I was merely acquainted. Some of those “acquaintanceships” have evolved into legit friendships BECAUSE of Facebook.
I treasure the outpouring of support I received on Facebook – again, from many who were acquaintances – when my husband was out of work a few years ago.
I get a kick out of the fact that my kid plays XBox live games with a kid of one of my best friends from law school – who I haven’t actually had any communication with, outside of Facebook, for nearly twenty years.
I like having a window into other aspects of my blogger friends’ lives – the aspects they may not necessarily share on their blogs.
I want to know when people get married, get divorced, have a baby, pass away – and share in those moments with them – and with others who know them – even if from a distance.
Maybe our Facebook circles are really no different than real life.
We have people in our lives who bug us. Who make us smile. With whom we share a bumpy road, or explore a new friendship.
We take the good with the bad. Sometimes we weed out some of the bad stuff, and sometimes we overlook it.
Some days are full of group hugs, and others…puke.
I guess my definition of a Facebook friend is: someone with whom there lies possibility – personal or professional.
And there’s so, so much possibility.
How do you decide who to friend on Facebook?