Do Facebook friendships mean anything at all?
OK, let’s accept it. We are all addicted to social networking sites, especially Facebook, in one way or another.
Social networking has not only altered the way we live, it has also changed our relationships and interactions with each other. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Foursquare, Yahoo 360 and many other social networking sites are the projectors of our self image and define our relationships.
The pages we ‘like’, the groups we join, our activities and interests, the thoughts we choose to share on Facebook – all work to make us a part of a subculture that is still in its infancy, but has widespread effects, and is slowly bringing down the barriers of distance and language.
A new social system
Facebook, in the past few years, has changed the concept of human relationships. Friendship is no longer confined to face-to-face interaction, but is now rooted in the ‘friends list’ of the other person. A simple click on the ‘unfriend’ option can cut ties between childhood friends. The more people in your friends list, the more popular you are perceived to be.
I wonder if being in someone’s friends list is enough to be called a friend or a non-digital environment where one can freely express emotions (without the assistance of emoticons) is still important to cultivate a healthy relationship between two people?
Even in friends, we have the liberty to compartmentalize people into different categories or circles, based on our closeness and level of formality with them. We have ‘family’, ‘best friends’, ‘not-so-close friends’, ‘relatives’ and‘work colleagues’ lists.
It is no longer a shame that most of us live a dual life all thanks to Facebook, which allow us to share our online life with specific friends and limit others to our off line life only. If due to cultural or proximity barriers, you cannot physically ‘poke a friend’, you can still do so in the world of Facebook and this subtle cue is somehow less offending in the virtual world.
Meeting new people
Some friendships also evolve based on your interaction with the other person on Facebook only. Even if you have never met a person in your life before, but since a friend of yours suggested you become friends with him, you add him and start talking and when you get a chance to meet this digital friend of yours in person, you both have already developed enough of a comfort zone to look over all the pleasantries.
Facebook has brought people together and has given new meaning to ‘connection’ and ‘networking’, it has also given hype to our fake digital personalities. As the saying goes:
“No one is as ugly as their NIC pic, or as good looking as their Facebook profile picture.”
Just as an artist carefully paints a portrait before putting it on display to the general public, similarly we brush, trim, update and retouch our online images and persona to find love and friendship. We constantly seek validation from the online community.
Social media may be giving rise to the new taxonomy of friendship, but for thousands like me, just by being on someone’s Facebook with a striking profile picture, is not enough to foster real relationships that will strengthen the bond between two people. I think online buddies can never replace our flesh and blood pals. The true meaning of friendship and true essence of human relations can never get deeper just by scribbling a few lines on each other’s walls once in a blue moon or by liking the same pages.
Real intimacy, the feeling of being touched, heard and seen by someone in reality is more than just satisfying your competitive spirit by increasing the number of people in your friend list.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.