Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Friendship and Facebook

I like to think I am quite popular and I know lots of people but I only see a handful with any regularity. You could say I have lots of friends and you could also say I only have 2 or 3 friends; it all depends on your definition of friendship.

There are many names we give to friends depending on where we know them from, how long we have known them and how well we know them, Friends, acquaintances, mates, pals, buddies etc etc. I am quite specific about these divisions and know exactly who falls into which category, that way I know who I can rely on and who I cant, who will turn up for my birthday and who will make an excuse.

Some people like to use friend but amend it with a succession of prefixes and suffixes, good friend, great friend, old friend, new friend, work friend, Uni friend blah blah blah.
A friend of mine uses an economic analogy and seeing as money is central to all of our lives it seems appropriate, especially as it can be a cause for "friendships" to break down or for new "friendships" to bloom. He says that if you were to win the lottery tomorrow (or the next Wednesday or Saturday, or is it everyday now?) which of your friends, acquaintances, mates, pals, buddies etc would you look after and which ones would you not. The ones you would are, by my definition your friends, the rest are acquaintances.

I have a very strong sense of just who my friends are, I know what they would do for me in a time of need and I know exactly what I would do for them if they asked me.
A few years ago I was stranded at Reading train station at 3am and with no way of getting home. I phoned a friend, my best friend and before I could explain how I got myself into the predicament I was in he was in his car and on his way to get me. He lived a good hour and a half away but didn't hesitate for a second.

In this increasing digital age where the Internet lets you communicate with people all over the world and make "friends" with people with the same interests, people who come from the same town as you or like the same colour, it is easy to build up a huge, global network of "friends". Bebo and Facebook seem to be the ones that are the current favourites but I’m sure they will soon fall by the wayside and we will all have to export all our contacts to the latest social networking site or maybe you will just start again and make new friends all over.

I have a Facebook account but I use it in strict accordance with some personal limitations, the most paramount of these rules is that I never add a person to my friends list that I have not actually met in the flesh, it’s just a quirk of mine but I don’t want to chat with someone called Lindy from Hawaii only to find out I have really been having steamy conversations with a builder called Barry from the Black country. The reason I even have a Facebook account is that due to my international exploits I have met people from all over the world and find Facebook slightly more convenient than e-mail.

I have around 100 people in my contacts list on Facebook and have met them all in the flesh, the adding to Facebook has been ratified by a personal meeting where they have proven themselves not to be a complete nutter, although some of them are part nutter, isn't that right Mel?
Most of these people are fleeting acquaintances; I had enjoyed spending time with them and keep in touch in case the opportunity arises for us to meet up again. I would expect they have similar thoughts about me. If anybody is reading this and thought we were best friends then I’m sorry but don’t phone me in the middle of the night if you’ve got a problem!

I know people who have hundreds, if not thousands of people in their Facebook contacts lists. This makes me feel a bit uneasy about having them as a friend. Firstly because my friendship can mean very little as I am a drop in a ocean of people and secondly because I am wary, nay scared of people who want to form friendships, however meaningless with complete strangers. Call me old fashioned but I like to have my fun the real world where hangovers hurt and money is something you can get from a hole in the wall, not a world where conversations consist of a weird kind of coded shorthand and money is spent on "cool" emoticons to impress your cyber buddies.

A friend is defined as a person you know well and like and so people added to your friends list because you share the same taste in underpants cannot be a friend. I think the definition of someone you have never met or seen before is called a STRANGER and my mum always told me to steer well clear of them.

If people want to collect names and add them to a list of so called friends then who cares?

Well I do actually.

When you get messages saying you have just been attacked by a whole collection of weirdoes because you are friends with their enemy in some juvenile game of Pirates V’s Ninjas or Nerds V’s Computer Geeks then that is crossing a cyber line. Give me strength. Strength to track down these people and strangle the life out of all of them.

Then there is Facebook’s funwall, a place where, as the name suggests you can have fun by receiving (and posting if you are so inclined) a ridiculous amount of pictures and videos that really aren’t very funny at all. The one thing however that is worse than having funwall is not having funwall as you get bombarded with messages telling you someone has just sent you something on funwall and you can click here to install and see the really crap video of a baby kicking a man in the nuts that we’ve all seen before.

The only way to get rid of these messages? Install the f’ing thing.

Facebook is designed so it is incredibly easy to spread all sorts of shit all over the planet, advertising was presumably the initial reason but this opens it all up for all your friends to send you everything from stupid videos to pornographic images, like the one I received from a so called friend of 3 old gay men doing unspeakable things to each other. A few clicks and you can spread the latest release from your shit band to all corners of the globe, thank god for the Internet. And don’t get me started on those simpletons who compile those videos made up entirely of music and clips from the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s that tell you "You were born in the 80’s if you remember…" do these people not have jobs?

I use Facebook as a tool to communicate with people across the world, I find it convenient and more personal than e-mail, you can post photos and other things your friends may be interested in and you can limit access. Facebook is my interactive, online address book and I use it as such. I think people who use it to find friends really should try it the old fashioned way first, they might be pleasantly surprised.

For me friends online are friends and acquaintances, mates, pals and buddies but never strangers. If you have a lot of people in your friends list you have never met you might want to think about making a few real friends, after all if your ever stuck in Reading train station at 3am your digital buddies can’t get in their cyber car and race down the information super highway to help you can they?

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