I enjoyed Shoshana’s post on Stories from the Heartland about “Christmas Card” friends (you know, the ones who you only correspond with via holiday cards). It’s strange and a bit sad to admit how many people in my life have become relegated to an annual address label and postage stamp.
I suppose sending a card takes at least a little more effort than merely approving a Facebook friend request and posting some random, whimiscal and/or witty nonsense on a fictional wall in cyber space. On Facebook, I am friends with my first childhood crush, my high school nemesis and my college roommate. I am also friends with three hotels, a slew of Las Vegas-based PR folk whom I only know by name, an Indian restaurant and The Simpsons (as in the animated FOX series). Is it just me, or has the definition of “friend” becoming watered down in this age of social networking?
In reality, I only count a handful of people among my closest friends, (that’s not including family). Sometimes I make the hasty mistake of counting the fingers on my second hand, but it usually doesn’t take long before those fingers fold back down into a hypothetical fist.
Facebook is a non-commital — a.k.a. lazy — way to keep in touch with people, not to be confused with actual face-to-face relationships. It is really not that different from the concept of selling yourself during real-life networking or at a high school reunion. On Facebook, as in life, we only show other people what we want them to see (and in some cases, that’s TMI). But on Facebook, you have the convenience of a “delete” button and the option not to post — a filter we don’t always have on a day to day basis. Don’t even get me started on the voyeuristic side of Facebook …
Not to say that it isn’t worthwhile, fun and occasionally a good way to pass time. I’ve certainly had my share of good Scrabble challenges and some enjoyable conversations. Also, having skipped my 10 year high school reunion, Facebook has happily helped me to reunite, reconnect and reconcile with certain ghosts from the past I never thought I’d hear from again.
I think of it sort of like therapy, only much cheaper.