Tuesday, October 19, 2010

10,000 Friends

I recently ran into one of my Facebook friends in a public situation. There was a mutual feeling of unease when we recognized each other, almost a kind of embarrassment. We barely know each other, yet we've probably shared some fairly personal moments via Facebook. Our connection originated from having Facebook friends in common, and we'd relied on those connections as justification for our being Facebook friends. This got me thinking about the depth of these connections, both with people you know and those you don't really know.

Andy Warhol once said, "In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." Likewise, I think it could be said, in the future everyone will have 10,000 friends. While ten thousand might sound like a large number, in the context of a Facebook-connected world it is not so large. If you had only 100 Facebook friends and you allowed each of those friends to share your posts with 100 unique friends from their Facebooks, you'd have 10,000 connections. And that's only going out two degrees.

But I find myself asking: are these connections real? Even with people I know well, I find that communication via Facebook has its limitations. Sure, it's fun to share photos, comments and interesting links, but this is a far cry from actually being in the same room with someone. While Facebook has become a great tool for locating long lost friends, I find that it leaves me with a less-than-satisfied feeling after slogging through the news feed for an hour. I feel like I've been cheated, wasted my time in a quest for some real conversation.

Facebook posts are like dismembered conversations. We speak at each other, not to each other. Facebook allows us put in our two cents, but these conversations seem to lack the connectedness of actually being there. In a way, we are less accountable. Have we become spoiled in our splendid isolation? Have we dumbed down the meaning of the word "friend?"

My real friends deserve better.