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July 2, 2011

Last night I was involved in a most interesting conversation after a dance show where Steve commented that he was cutting down his Facebook friends list. To summarize, he felt obligated to respond to every person’s post; since he had little time to spare to respond to so many posts, he decided to trim his list down to a minimal number. Very minimal.

And that got me to thinking… which can be dangerous, given the side trips my mind can take…

There are many people whose company I enjoy. I find great pleasure in being in their presence, and delight in the conversational turns. My world would be less enjoyable if those people did not inhabit it.

However. (And this is where we enter the dangerous shoals where conscious and unconscious meet…)

There are degrees of friendship that are not easily defined, especially when we want to sort them out according to Facebook limitations.

There are some friends in my life that are not on the Internet. Shocking, but it’s true! Indeed, the only interactions we have are face-to-face (F2F), in-person, giving us -relatively- short periods of time to interact socially. If I want to have details of their lives, I have to ask, and even then the details will be missed. Oh, how many times have I thought, “I should’ve asked about their …?” Unless I call, maybe long-distance, there goes another lost opportunity to get to know them better. On the other hand, if/when you call, it could be considered a measure of how important that person is to your life.

Then there are a few friends who are “connected”, but only marginally. They have an email address, and might manage to remember their password once a month, or once a week, to login. If I want news, I can ask via email but must expect to wait a while to hear back. So that is another set of folks where effort must be applied to maintain a friendship.

Then there are the online inhabitants. You, the people that are -seriously- connected. Oh, there are so many of them! And connecting with them all (including -you-) is overwhelming!

There are the friends that are truly only acquaintances. We have something in common, but I don’t impact their lives nor they mine. I like them and am glad to know them, but there is no depth because we have no shared history.

There are the friends that I enjoy spending time with in our various social venues: medieval club, tango, bellydance, textile arts. We have a connection through our common interests, and I treasure these friends. I would be saddened by their loss. On the other hand, how much do I -really- want to know about their inner selves?

There are the friends that I have a connection with on a more personal level, usually beginning through activities or shared experiences. We want to know what’s happening in each other’s lives because we care about each other’s successes and triumphs over failures. My life would be darkened by their loss.

There are the friends that I have a deep connection with (Hi, sis!) who I am delighted to learn about their daily experiences, trials, tribulations and joys. Well, maybe not minute by minute, tho’ I have been known to, on occasion, indulge. If I were to lose them, the wound would last until the end of eternity.

The only way to maintain friendships
, real friendships, not mere Facebook friendships (“I have 1263 friends!”), is to communicate. That means listening and responding to people (posts, emails, letters, phone calls, F2F conversation). It means giving your time to them…

I asked one would-be FB friend how she kept up with her 546 FB friends, and I received no reply; I’m sorry to disappoint you, my dear, but our friendship will continue to be on the acquaintance level. To me, friendship, even a FB friendship, entails some responsibility to interact. (Granted, there are times the best I can do is “like” posts. Life being what it is.)

To all those who have sent me a “friend request”: Unless we are already communicating on something beyond a superficial level, we’ll have to chat whenever we meet in person. ❤ you anyway!

So… F2F VS FB? My opinion is the former must precede the latter, and even then a Facebook "friendship" is not a given.

How about you? Is everyone a "friend" to the same degree? If so, what do you consider your boundaries? If not, how do -you- deal with the degrees of intimacy?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    July 2, 2011 10:26 pm

    I am wrestling with the role that Facebook plays in my life. On the one hand I value the connection I get from a face to face connection. I love the repartee that can only occur in a lively circle of friends across a table with a bottle of wine, around a camp fire, sitting quietly over a cup of coffee. A Facebook “conversation” is devoid of the quick wit, flashes of facial expression and body communication that reveal our humanity.
    On the other hand, with Facebook I can be kept aware of what my kids and friends are up to, and I don’t feel so disconnected. On the third hand, Facebook posts are broadcasts, intended for general consumption and therefore not very personal and can be full of self aggrandizing ‘look at me’ statements. Or they can be surprisingly intimate, revealing and poignant, telling me something about a friend that I might not have ever known. On the fourth hand (I’m looking like Shiva now), it’s natural that, as we drift along the river that is life, we drift away from people we have known, we drift closer to others. Facebook tends to keep alive zombie relationships that don’t have meaning any more. Yet I hang on.
    I started out collecting Facebook friends, then I realized I got loads of messages from people I didn’t really care about, I got loads of messages from people I really cared about who happened to be loquacious, I missed messages from people I really cared out but only posted occasionally. Imperfect medium. I ‘unfriended’ a lot of Facebook ‘friends’, hating to do so but also wanting to try and maintain my own integrity, try and keep my Facebook relationships meaningful. In the end what I wanted was to be able to see only the messages that were meaningful to me. There is no “Meaningful to Me” filter in Facebook, and I will never trust a computer algorithm to make that kind of decision for me.
    So what I will settle for is some small improvements in the medium. First, the ability to have different relationship ‘flavors’. I communicate differently with my children than I do with my relatives, close friends, dance partners, acquaintances etc. Second, I would like to be able to deal with the vast difference in message volume between those friends who communicate rarely and those who put up twenty or more posts a day.
    Facebook and it’s ilk are changing our society at a rapid pace. When I fret about kids messaging each other from adjoining rooms my partner reminds me that it’s far better that they be interacting with another person than watching TV. I agree. Different cognitive processes altogether.
    Maybe the new Google+ social networking tool will add some features that will address my concerns. I hope so because this type of communication is here to stay in one form or another. I know it’s a lot better than waiting until Sunday night once a month to call Grandma and keeping the call under two minutes to keep the cost down. Though that did have the benefit of keeping the conversation focused.

  2. July 2, 2011 10:46 pm

    Shiva or no, you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how this style of communication (or non-communication) had made impact on your life, and the lives of the people around you. I know that I would have a tough time “de-friending” actual friends, when their only fault is that there are too many of them. Sorry to say, there will never be a “meaningful to me” filter in our technology, as you suggested; it’ll still be up to us to decide what ether-chatter we will give our attention to.

    On the other hand (Shiva again?), who shall decide for us what is or should be meaningful to us? Aye… There’s another conversation… 🙂

  3. July 3, 2011 11:41 am

    I simply don’t comment on everything on my FB wall. It’s ridiculous to do so; I comment on or share posts that interest me. If someone comes on FB and thinks it’s their mission and duty to respond to every friend’s post, I submit that they are approaching FB from the wrong angle. It’s like a big party; you don’t have to race around making sure that you comment on every single thing each and every friend says in the course of the night. In fact, for me, someone commenting on every. single. post. I make is kind of creepy.

    • July 3, 2011 5:13 pm

      I hadn’t thought of the responsive commenting from that angle… Thanks! Do you manage to keep up on reading/listening to everyone at the party, or just the people nearby/recent-posts?

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