I wake up in the morning and remember it is my friend’s birthday. I like to make my own greeting cards. I arrive at my friend’s doorstep with card and a gift only to be greeted with a snarl. “You did not wish me on my birthday.” I am on the defensive for a moment before I reminded my friend that I had called up to wish him that morning. My friend is unimpressed. “You never wished me on Facebook.”
So that’s the truth of social media. A birthday is not complete unless you have been wished on Facebook. But is that all that has changed?
Before Facebook happened, all of us had under a dozen friends. Unless you were Miss India in which case you could be excused for having had a hundred friends. Among adult Facebook users, the average number of friends is 338, and the median (midpoint) number of friends is 200. That basically means half of the billion odd people on Facebook have less than 200 friends. Maybe these are the introverts. Another half a billion people on Facebook have more than 200 friends.
There is something wrong with this equation. If the world is full of friends bumping into each other on Facebook, who is fighting the wars we keep hearing about on television? I suspect it is that half of humanity which is restricting itself to only 200 friends. They aren’t working hard enough.
The definition of who we term as a friend has changed. Everyone is a friend – your colleague, your parents, relatives and even the odd neighborhood cat is on everyone’s friend list. The number of friends you have on Facebook is the new status symbol. If you have anything less than 338 friends, you will be responsible for ruining the conversation. It is like going to a party of billionaires and dropping a bombshell by announcing you have exactly twenty bucks on you. And no you did not mean twenty billion.
Even a zoo has different enclosures for different animals but not Facebook. Your spouse, current girlfriend, heartthrob-in-office, neighborhood hottie and even ex-girlfriend are all clubbed together in one enclosure. It is bound to create complications. As my twenty-something colleague points out that the spouse will often ask, “Why is your ex always the first one to “like” every photo and comment of yours? Is he still interested or is he simply stalking you? Do you still chat with him on the side?”
College life is getting complicated. You cannot tell your friends not to text you during class when they see you posting selfies even as the Professor is dishing out generous helpings of knowledge. Or when you hear someone say, “No she is not like a friend … you know, she is just a Facebook friend.”
There is this beautiful proverb that says, “The first time you share tea with someone, you are a stranger. The second time you take tea, you are an honored guest. The third time you share a cup of tea, you become family.”
Until we are able to do that, we have to live the way people now describe their relationship status these days – “It’s complicated.”
Posted on 20 September 2014 in Abhijit Bhaduri’s website