Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fake Facebook Friends

Last week the Internet was talking a lot about the study done on Facebook last year that attempted to manipulate people's emotions by altering the information on their newsfeed. The ethics of the study, as well as whether it violated the privacy of the people have been the focus.

And those are all great questions that should be asked and addressed.

But it got me thinking about something else.
I have 117 friends on Facebook, mainly because I limit accepting friend requests to people I actually know. Last week, I also had a blow up fight on Facebook, as someone I went to college with took severe issue with my rant against a new law in NC that allowed prayer in school. He was ignorant, couldn't make an argument, and just kept going, long after I had stopped responding. The next morning, as I read his posts, continuing past when I went to bed, I got to thinking- why was this person a friend? We obviously don't share the same beliefs, and he showed himself to be an ass. So I deleted him.
But it was a stop and think moment. I have people on my friends list from high school and college- people who I know, but before that friend request hit my inbox, I hadn't heard from in years. We didn't keep up. We don't talk now. I don't have phone numbers for them, or mailing addresses. Last summer, I saw one of them in person. And it was awkward- we had nothing to say to each other. We read each others' newsfeeds, so technically we knew what was going on in each other's lives, but when face to face, there was nothing to say. That doesn't seem like a friend to me.

A friend to me is someone you call and talk to on a regular basis. Who you make arrangements to see when you can. Someone you care for.

Looking at my friends list, I have people from high school that I am politically opposed to, and whose views I find not just offensive, but ignorant. There are theatre people who made no effort to stay my friend when I left theatre- many who didn't try to be my friend when I was still in theatre, and lived in the same city as them.

When I left theatre, and then during Mom's long illness, a lot of my friends fell to the wayside.

Now, there are some people on Facebook that I'm glad I found. I enjoy seeing their lives, and seeing how they are. I make an effort to send them messages, and tell them that I'm thinking of them. It's a wonderful way to keep up with far-flung friends. And it lets my Dad, 1,951 miles away, keep up on Nehi activities. I also have had some crossover from Twitter, and these people (despite never having met them) I do consider friends because of our levels of interaction and common interests.

Facebook has several "levels" of friendship you can set people:
  • Smart lists like work, school, etc. and set what gets shared accordingly
  • Acquaintances just means you see less of their posts than you do your friends'
  • Restricted: Can only see things you make public
    • Limited has been mostly replaced by restricted
Here's what I wish I could- just delete, delete, delete. Take the list down to real friends, friends I make an effort to stay FRIENDS with. But the sad state of modern social media is that it is easier to set someone to a restricted list where you don't have to see them, they can't see you, than it is to deal with the drama of deleting them. Because after you delete them (perhaps with a time delay, because they're not really paying attention to you because...not your friend) you invariably get the "Why did you delete me?" message. And the answer of "we're not really friends" never goes well. And yes, I recognize it's a coward's way out.

One of the reasons that I'm sure this is on my mind is that grad school is a lonely business. Every advice column tells you to make sure you have a support system in place. I have Nehi. I don't have friends here. I don't have people to talk to. And that's okay. But my lack of face to face friends here has made me think about friends, or lack thereof.

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