Mak­ing friends

Face­book takes friend­ships to a whole new level.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIFESTYLE -

IT’S of­fi­cial. I’m not very pop­u­lar. At least, ac­cord­ing to Face­book stan­dards I’m not. You see, a re­cent re­port crowned Malaysia the most cy­ber-so­cia­ble coun­try in the world, with the av­er­age num­ber of so­cial net­work friends run­ning at a whop­ping 233, closely fol­lowed by Brazil with 231 friends. So what does that say about me and my measly 82 friends?

I’ve just checked my Face­book ac­count and it seems that I have over­stated my pop­u­lar­ity. I ac­tu­ally only have 81 friends. This means that some­one has un-friended me since the last time I was on­line. It’s de­mor­al­is­ing to think that some­one who once con­sid­ered me a friend no longer wants to have any­thing to do with me, even in cy­ber land.

In the real world, peo­ple are not that cruel; they don’t an­nounce to the world that they are no longer your friend. They may stop call­ing and send­ing Christ­mas cards and knit­ting you sweaters for your birth­day, but when they bump into you in the shop­ping mall, they at least pre­tend to still like you.

They lie to you and tell you that they’ve been busy and that they want to do lunch soon. And if you’re lucky, they’ll air-kiss you be­fore go­ing off to have lunch with peo­ple they find more in­ter­est­ing and fun. But you won’t know what they re­ally think.

On Face­book, a dwin­dling num­ber of friends speaks louder than the ab­sence of tele­phone calls or gar­ish sweaters or lunch ap­point­ments.

I have an­other con­fes­sion to make. Not all of my Face­book friends are re­ally my friends. A quar­ter of them are fam­ily mem­bers – sib­lings and nieces and neph­ews. Heck, even my mother is my friend.

Ac­tu­ally, when my mother first signed onto Face­book (43 friends) and sent me a friend request, I wasn’t very happy.

Like, who wants their mother look­ing at their in­ti­mate pho­tos and read­ing their in­ner­most thoughts, things that you would nor­mally only share with your 100 clos­est friends?

I kept her wait­ing be­fore I ac­cepted her as a friend. In the end, I was forced to add her to my list be­cause ev­ery other fam­ily mem­ber on Face­book had taken her on board.

Still, she’s proven to be the model mother/friend. She just hov­ers in the back­ground, send­ing ev­ery­one birth­day wishes and gen­er­ally keep­ing a low pro­file.

Al­though my own daugh­ter (238 friends) has ac­cepted me as a friend, I re­sist the temp­ta­tion to make too many com­ments about her on­line com­ments, for fear that she will delete me. My son (num­ber of friends un­known), on the other hand, doesn’t want me eaves­drop­ping on his on­line ex­is­tence – too creepy, ac­cord­ing to him.

I have an­other con­fes­sion to make: I’m ac­tu­ally friends with four peo­ple I’ve never met be­fore – a pub­lisher (1,038 friends) and three fel­low writ­ers. The pub­lisher might come in handy, but I sus­pect a few other writ­ers are hav­ing sim­i­lar thoughts. Oth­er­wise, who the heck has 1,038 friends?

I’m not even sure if I’ve met 1,038 peo­ple over the course of my life, ac­tu­ally been in­tro­duced to them, shaken their hand and ex­changed a few words that might con­sti­tute the first buds of what might turn into some­thing akin to ac­quain­tance­ship.

I’ve also come to re­alise that a num­ber of my so-called friends are not re­ally friends at all. Any­one who lives in the same town as I do and hasn’t called me, or talked to me, or sent me a Face­book mes­sage in the past year, isn’t much of a friend, but the same holds true of me.

So what do I do? Delete them all or just keep them on my list?

The voyeur in me tells me to keep some of them for en­ter­tain­ment pur­poses, es­pe­cially the ones who lead hugely in­ter­est­ing lives and take a huge num­ber of pho­to­graphs to doc­u­ment the fact that they ac­tu­ally do have a life away from Face­book. Still, an­other voice tells me that I want to keep it real.

Ac­cord­ing to the same re­port, the Ja­panese have an av­er­age of 29 on­line friends and spend less time on so­cial net­work­ing sites than the whop­ping nine hours that Malaysians de­vote to such ac­tiv­i­ties ev­ery week.

I think 29 is a more re­al­is­tic and man­age­able num­ber of friends, but it might not make for a very in­ter­est­ing time on­line.

Of course, it might free up more time for you to ac­tu­ally get away from your com­puter and meet some­one for a bento lunch and an origami ex­hi­bi­tion.

But what if my real friends are too busy Face­book­ing to spend time with me?

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