In terms of sheer numbers, at least in my case, the virtual friends win. I have many more “friends” on Facebook than I have in the real world. I have never had more than a dozen friends in the pre FB world. In the real world if you tap someone and say I want to be your friend, you would be immediately stared at by all and sundry for being a weirdo. Life is simpler on FB. I send someone a request and if the person accepts my request the person joins my friend list. There are no awkward questions asked like, “Have we met before?” We already know if we share friends or even interests in common. We say, “We have a few friends in common.” And then we accept that friend request.
Have you ever tried to unfriend someone in real life? We are stuck with some person who continues to behave obnoxiously for years. We groan at the thought of meeting them but have no choice but to put up a false veneer of civility. Maybe at best you may think of not returning his missed call that you missed on purpose. In Facebook, you discover a jackass lurking among your “friends”. Just “unfriend” them. You are done. The best part is that the person does not even realize that he or she has been dropped off your planet.
Friends in post FB age are deeper. Look at the amount of information we know about each other. Take for instance the sheer amount of information I know about someone on Facebook. Depending on how frequently someone updates their status, I get to know when they brought a new dress, when their dog died, the trips they are going on and even when their relationship status is “complicated”. My friends quote their favorite poets, they share the photos of the books they are reading, the photos of the Burritos they ordered and even when they came back home drunk. In FB10, we judge the depth of our friendship by their response time. How long did the friend n question take to “like” my new selfie or status update? This is the closest we have ever got to sitting with your entire group of friends unblinkingly tracking every move you make.
The other day I met someone at a conference. We are connected on Facebook but had never met in person. Through the status updates I got to know that we are both going to be at the same conference and decided to meet. When we did meet, we met like friends who have known each other for a while. We knew what we had been reading, the people whose ideas we find fascinating and the people who we both find annoying on Facebook. So we had already covered some distance together in the virtual world. We had already moved from being acquaintances to being friends.
Maybe, just maybe The Police wrote this song “Every Breath You Take” for our Facebook friends… They just wrote it a few years too early.
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you
Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you If you have a birthday, five hundred of your Facebook friends can send you expensive virtual gifts. How many times has someone sent you a sports car to say happy birthday to you? Or maybe a sheep from Farmville?
Online friendships are deeper – would you agree?