Here’s a number for you 1,940,000,000. That’s the number of users Facebook has, as I am writing this article. And here’s another one, 338. That’s the average number of friends a user has. Sound familiar? The question here is, social-media jargon aside how many of them would you really trust, be comfortable around and call as your friends?
Before I continue any further, let’s make one thing clear. This is not an article about how detrimental Facebook is for us or how it’s a manipulative medium. Facebook has unarguably evolved into a powerful tool that has indeed changed most things for the better, as a matter of fact, the reason that you are probably reading this article is that of Facebook. But what about the unintended consequences so to speak of this potent tool?As I scroll through my own Facebook friends list I realize that most of these ‘Facebook friends’ are either old classmates I didn’t actually talk to in school, family friends I am still awkward around or batchmates I haven’t been all too familiar with. And yet we find ourselves being okay with divulging parts of our own lives to these people as if we know them personally.It is almost as if Facebook has allowed me to transform people I’ve had ephemeral interactions with into friends.
‘Acquaintance’, a term defined as a person one knows slightly, but who is not a close friend.When I re-read this definition keeping Facebook in mind, it probably sounds like my average ‘friend’. Facebook has blurred the conventional lines of friendship and added an extra circle of people in all our lives. But to what extent are all of us connected, I’m not quite sure. It is a tool so capable it acted as a GPS for the Arab revolution, on the other hand, it has isolated us even further from real conversations, interactions and the actual people we would see ourselves with. It has made us more conscious of who we are, at times not even our own selves.
And what exactly does it mean to ‘like’ something? Are you agreeing with what that post is trying to convey, or do you just like what they’re saying or are you agreeing to disagree and just respecting their opinion. The point here is that you may never know. Perhaps the scariest part here is the sense of slight happiness that you get when someone whose face you can’t recall likes a photo you posted, being tagged in that random video or that meme about handling life. I may go as far to even say that we are today seeking validation from people who don’t know us all that well.
Facebook also allows us to not deal with people of all kinds, not face the ones you don’t get along with, it’s as simple as muting their conversation or even un-friending them. In retrospect isn’t life all about facing the 80 % you don’t get along with, with the help of the 20% you actually trust. It is in our weakest moments that we come to terms with how important the people in our lives are and to be honest I don’t see how a social-media friend that I barely recount having a legitimate conversation with can help me out. And yet I partition my time between my social media friends and the ones in real life almost to the extent of being equal.
We are conditioned to project only our best, albeit unrealistic, selves on our social media profiles as a modern way of virtually keeping up with the Sharmajis. Most of us who post on social media post about our achievements, positive thoughts and happier times. So how can we go running to these people at our weakest times when all we project is our best. Could it be possible that we are losing the intrinsic aspect of relationships? The random 3 AM conversations, the subtle signs, the unspoken words.The unintended repercussion of such widely accepted and popular portal is that it has also managed to redefine how we perceive relationships and friends at it’s most basic level. This is probably not something you are not okay with, so am I. But the fact is that there are two sides to every major disruptive happening in the world, just like 2 sides of the same coin.
With that being said please feel free to share this article with your ‘friends’ on Facebook : ) .
Volunteer Organizer, TEDxNITTrichy