Facebook takes friendships to a whole new level.
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?