Facebook… does it matter if we’re friends?

Over the years, you’ve probably referred to hundreds of people as your friend, but what does that actually mean anymore? Has Facebook ruined what it once meant?

My friend (whatever that means) Dan recently took me to task on having 1000+  ‘friends’ on Facebook, telling me this was ridiculous and demeaning the purpose of what the social networking site was intended for.

“What’s wrong with that?” I asked Dan almost apologetically.

At University, it became a necessity to use Facebook. The terminology ‘Facebook you’ was heard around campus in my first week (so was, ‘What’s a Jew?’ but that’s for another time) whilst the art of poking (remember those days?) would be discussed before lectures and pretty soon ‘I’ll FB U’ was dropped into text messages as if was as integral as the beloved ‘x’ finishing so many adopted. Drunken mishaps of forgetting the B would be an issue.

Facebook usage at University spread like wildfire. Arguably people misunderstood (and still do?) that it was a game of popularity to get as many friends as possible. I remember in those first weeks on Facebook people you’ve barely met were quickly added whilst within those first months surely everyone had a slightly bemusing moment when that person you hadn’t seen or spoken to since primary school added you. The temptation to greet them warmly on their wall with a ‘Do you still piss your pants like in Year 4?’ was probably typed before being deleted.

Quite simply, if Wikipedia was how students found out about their University studies, then Facebook would be how they found out about other University students. Pretty soon a passing moment in a club would automatically mean that they’ll look at your FB page to see if you look as attractive in normal light and without the effects of cheap alcohol. For many, it was a chance to be a detective from the comfort of your own bed. Sadly for those aspiring to follow their hero DI Deakin, the glory days of blissful ignorance in regards to private profiles are surely over.

Personally, these days I’m on Facebook less. I’m using Twitter more and I can now justify the use of Linkedin having joined the world of the employed (not in the Student Sabbatical sense – they don’t give a sh*t in the real world about that BTW). Indeed I think in some regards it’s one step ahead of Facebook because when you add people on Linkedin it asks you why you are doing so and in what regard you know your connection. What a bloody brilliant idea… justification.

Just imagine Facebook if this had been in place when we were starting out at University. Imagine a time when you could no longer add the lovely ‘Sophie’ as a friend with a single click, but had to list a reason from the following:

a)     We went to School together and thus feel an unbreakable bond for the rest of our lives despite the fact I’d probably cross the road if I saw her in real life.

b)    We currently study together and therefore feel obligated to be friends so when we sit together in class, I’ll already know about her dog dying.

c)     She is sleeping with one of my housemates and I’d like to assess her other mates whom I assume she would then bring over for me.

d)    She is very attractive and I would like to look through her album ‘Ibiza 08’ that everyone else has been going on about.

e)     I heard she can get me cheaper entry to clubs and I won’t have to queue like everybody else. This is of course because I have a divine right to skip queues.

f)     We’ve got a lot of mates in common and it’s a bit awkward every time we go out that we see each other and do nothing more than nod. I hope this helps.

g)    She’s dating someone famous and I’d like to get to know them through her.

h)    I think she’ll make it in life, so I might as well get in nice and early.

i)      I’ve just started seeing her housemate and want to look like I care about her friends whilst I’m doing so.

j)      I run events on campus and want lots of people to come to them.

k)    I’m one of those tossers running for an election on campus and I no longer see people as human beings but as a potential vote.

And this would carry on until somewhere you’ll find:

z) We met in normal social circumstances and I thought we got on well.

Thinking about it with hindsight maybe it’s best we don’t have all these options available.

The truth is however, that whilst not everyone fits into the idyllic category ‘z’ that my mate Dan speaks of there’s something great about still having everyone else on your feed and in your ‘friends’.

That I can see at the click of a button how one of my course mates from University got married a few months ago or the way I can check the graduation photos of that bloke I met travelling in Thailand or perhaps on the progress of the girl I met at an interview and got the job I didn’t or even that I can ask for advice for my radio documentary on songs about money and get a response from a girl who dumped my mate three years ago. There’s something weirdly wonderful about it all.

The opponents of such a theory will talk of a ‘cull’ – a removal of people they deem so disinterested in that they cannot tolerate their virtual connection. It’s a bit brutal for me. I love the random collections of thoughts, YouTube links, reaction to big breaking news, the moments of bewilderment when someone discusses going for a STI check on another persons wall and the ability to contact people from the other side of the world for their annual ‘Happy Birthday mate’ wall message.

I asked at the top of this if Facebook has changed what a ‘friend’ is. Undoubtedly a Facebook friend has deviated a long way from what most would traditionally call a friend, but to be fair to Zuckerberg, I don’t know what else would have worked. I’m sure he didn’t ponder too long on the thought of his users adding acquaintances. He was probably too busy adding that girl who pissed herself in Year 4. In truth, I’d have called them friends too.

Like Liverpool FC, Facebook is for me, not what it was in its glory days but come September I’ll have been on it for five years. It’s peaked, but let’s not deny it’s been a lot of fun.

For now come catch me on twitter? I need more followers…

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