Facebook has been in the news even more than usual lately. The site is getting its tenth facelift, working on a true email service, and it has been reported that Facebook and MySpace users are divided along class lines.
But there's a relatively recent phenomenon on Facebook that's been bothering me. It's not entirely new but it was not witnessed at the beginning. I remember in 2007, when Facebook would force me to tell it how I met a friend and meeting through another friend didn't cut it. Of course, both new friends could agree to lie, but you had to state how you knew that person. Now Facebook and online users have relaxed and meeting friends online is no longer the domain of those looking for love, playing WoW or seeking a S&M partner.
I still don't accept friendship requests from people I've never heard but I've noticed such request being more frequent. I have accepted requests from friends of friends, people I've seen commenting on my friends walls and who seemed of like mind. On a few occasions, I have changed my mind and swiftly clicked the "remove from friends" button but there are those who, although they haven't offended actively, have offended me by treating me like a cheap date.
You know who they are. They have hundreds, if not thousands of friends. You accept their friend request and you never hear from them again. You're just a number in their Facebook little black book. You said yes and they're not respecting you in the morning.
Some FB flings are more complicated. I have a few Facebook friends who are far too busy to ever post anything on my wall but who will participate in convos on their on wall. It's a bit like having a popular friend who gives great parties but would never deign venturing to your neck of the woods and cross your threshold. I remember one friend who had a staggering six hundred friends when we became friends and he'd post on my wall sometimes. But now with over sixteen hundred "friends" (I mean, 1600. Really?), now, he would never be caught dead writing anything on my wall*. Is it possible the next thousand friends are more interesting than me? Although it is possible, I doubt it. I doubt it not because I'm fascinating but because I'm sure he has no idea who those thousand people are.
Then, there are the truly wam-bam-thank-you-maam Facebook friends. I have a couple of those. I had never interacted with them but we have several mutual friends in common. I've asked about them and was told they were nice. Um. I have found them to be nice in the way that people who don't hit me over the head with a polo mallet are nice. Negative niceness. There is one posh friend in particular, a woman of a certain age, who seems to collect friends like Fabergé eggs. As an experiment, because I saw her coming from a mile away, I have posted on her wall several times. Been nice, jokey, well wishing. Nothing. I'm part of a collection and collections should be seen, not heard.
So, I feel cheap. but mostly I feel sad because one common denominator of my notch-on-a-bedpost/Fabergé eggs Facebook friend is that they are grown adults. This phenomenon doesn't even raises to the level of high school popularity contest and this is what troubles me the most. The fact is that high school popularity contests have more substance and are based on far healthier psychological bases. They teach us about social interaction, who power is we encounter with our peers, not just our superiors. They teach about the difference between true and hollow friendship. You're meant to have learned those lessons by the age of sixteen. But imagine growing up and being so needy and childish. Imagine part of your self-worth being a number on a computer interface.
And the question beckons, why am I still friends with these false friends? I doubt that my absconding would be noticed but we're obviously dealing with fragile egos here and I was raised to be nice. They have given me no active reason to ditch them, although I must say, I have been thinking about scaling back to fewer friends. I mean, those people are surely on my Colbert notice board.
The only people who should have more than three hundred friends (because FB used to be for students only and people would add their entire class) on Facebook are public figures and people who do business online. I have friends in sales and I understand why they'd have hundreds of Facebook friends. Apart from that, there are only a certain type of people who would legitimately pursue as many FB friends as possible. There's a reason why prostitutes befriend everybody on Twitter, and that, I guess, is just another sales job.
*BTW, Facebook sends a warning when folks are making too many friends. It says something to the effect that "you couldn't possibly be making so many friends so quickly". Duh. Of course, none of this is Facebook's business but I like the idea of an app is actually telling people "you're not fooling us, you're still a loser. You know it and we just wanted you to know we know it too".