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If it needs introduction, Facebook is the service that uses people’s official college email addresses and acts very much like hi5 or myspace. Basically it lets you fill in all your friends and to keep track of them when they disperse into the wide world by virtue of the internet. Its recently begun its roll out in the UK to universities and high schools here after tremendous success in the USA and Canada and it’s currently the gimmick of choice at Kings with many people using it or starting to use it. And so getting the odd few requests that I do, I’ve been spending a little time on the Facebook website after being gotten to start it by one of my other friends when it initially started its Kings roll out, I got to be a bit of a pioneer with it, and so I have the honour to okay all the ‘friends’ requests that come in as people come online with it.
And that’s my problem with facebook.

For starters its the terminology – it terms all these people my friends. Maybe it’s just me but friends is a strong word, its a loaded word and a significant word. They are important people that you trust and that you share a bond with. They are not every Tom Dick and Harry that you spent 5 minutes at with in High School, people who are nodding acquaintances or who you don’t really get on with at all. Half of the people on mine aren’t really my friends and I don’t think they think that of me, so well why are we pretending we like each other on facebook? So many of the people that are on my facebook account are people I will never talk to again, that I have no intention of making the slightest effort to initiate contact with, let alone pretend their friends. Its just stupid. Why did I add them? Why are they adding me? I don’t think we have more then a ‘hi how are you’ kind of relationship in the first place. What a waste of time and effort that you decided to add me. Yours and mine.

Conversely some of my best friends in the world are not on that net, and even if they were I would feel no need to add them. They’re people who made the effort to stay in touch across all the effort and the odds, who felt that we had a bond that translated across thousand of miles that it would be worth making the effort. What’s surprising about that is that they’re so often not who you might expect, but when they do you realise what an impact you’ve had and what strength there is in that bond. All these things Facebook can’t even begin to represent. People and impact far transcend notional lines of allegiance programmed into a computer tracking by email address.

My other gripe with it is that its totally pointless. No one uses it for anything; they just feel that if they connect up all the people they know in some sort of social net that this accomplishes something. Well I unsurprisingly have news for them – it doesn’t. You don’t achieve anything by drawing lines in the sand and pretending connections exist. Connections have to be real and substantial and they cannot be grafted out of pretence in their creation. We’re not going to see each other ever again, nor have a conversation or pretend that we actually care what the other person is up to. At most we use it as a tool to show other people – our ‘friends’ who can see our profile – what wonderfully suave and socially apt people we are, with our tremendous social skills and vast networks. Yeah that’s precisely what it is – a shallow showy pretence of contact that aids no one and wastes all our time.

Even when I’ve made the effort to get in touch with old people that have added me, just to see how they were and what they were up to, they haven’t really made the effort to get back to me, or when they have they’ve been lukewarm borderline reluctant to make actual contact. So what was the point of adding me as a ‘friend’ if you don’t even want any contact with me? If its just to make up the numbers well what is the point of that? The sad thing is that some of these people I thought it would be cool to get in touch with again. We were after all friends once upon a time and had a common understanding of some sort, which was lost through the effluxion of time, but hopefully somewhere rather murkily its there and we’re at least somewhat curious as to what the other person is up to and how they’ve been on the rollercoaster of life. Guess I’m wrong about that as well.

Yet at the same time I can’t reject these people when they request to be added. I have no intention of adding them – but why do them wrong by rejecting their request to be added. Is the pretence better then nothing at all? The feeling that we have reached out at least a little bit into the void great enough to supplant the total futility of our grasp? I don’t understand why these people keep adding me – I just don’t get it. But of course why deny their requests when they don’t cost me anything, don’t restrict me in anyway and seem a salutory guesture in the first place. I might as well in such circumstances for the time being. I’m beggining to think that my attitude is starting to shift, I don’t want to be party to a farce nor have one continue. I’m not claiming friends that wouldn’t lift a finger to help me if I needed it and I would rather have no friends then a thousand of that sort. I can deal with the former – I know myself tolerably well. Fake relations with fake people who I’m temporally as well as mentally done with and will never see again – that I don’t need.

I cherish friendships and I won’t have the word or the concept demeaned in my mind by a faceless company who wishes to profit by it in their desire to use ‘neutral’ language. Call it my acquaintance net and I might be more inclined to keep using it. At least it will then gain a single virtue of honesty.



One Comment

    • Dom
    • Posted March 6, 2006 at 2:16 pm
    • Permalink

    I have 120+ contacts in my MSN Messenger yet I have never talked to 95% of them, and probably never will. I did ask myself the same question: why sign up for services like Friendster when I never use it to get in touch with other people? (BTW, I have 935 “second-degree” friends on Friendster…I must be popular!) As a result I am resisting the temptation to sign up to more service. Maybe you should join the resistance.

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