I love using social networking sites such as Facebook. In 2006 I signed up for an account mainly to stay in touch with the awesome Plume IS people I met in Japan. It was a platform to share photos with friends and be “informed” of what everyone was doing. Facebook helps me stay connected with family and friends back home as I don’t see them very often.
However I do find the “friends” section on Facebook a strange. As of this morning, I had 520 friends on my account. And this wasn’t a lot compared to others. As I sipped my tea I wondered how many people actually are my “friend”. Some on the list were people I knew from primary school, my first student job, secondary school, junior college, university etc. I must have met quite a lot of people over the years. But how many can I really say are my actual “friends”? “Friends” who will set aside time for me when I need them, or “friends” who I’ll want to be there for when they need me etc. Or “friends” to hang out with.
Hence, I decided to do the thing which some people find offensive – “Unfriend” people. It was surprising that many names on the list did not ring any bells in my head. Obviously we went to school together (since we shared mutual friends) but I didn’t have a face to match their names. Even after checking out their photos I still didn’t remember most of them. And yes, I clicked on the “Unfriend” button. There is no reason for anyone to take it personally because we obviously haven’t spoken for years (not in person and not online) and I reckon that’s pretty much as good as strangers. There were also ones who post revealing photos of themselves and I think “Nah…I don’t really want to see you almost topless”. There are plenty of articles out there that say unfriending on Facebook has real-life consequences. Well, if we’re not even interacting virtually in the slightest bit (or in a civilised manner) why should that matter in reality?
“Friends” is such a broad category. For the really close friends and family, we use Whatsapp more than Facebook to communicate. There are also people I worked with (or working with) who were really nice to me and had taken great care of me – for this group of people we occasionally poke fun at each other on Facebook or send emails. These people remain my friends even though I’ve moved overseas.
A close friend of mine recently gave up her Facebook account because of privacy issues and this got me thinking. I have also been facing with issues of trust lately with regards to what goes on Facebook that has led me to evaluate the differences between people I’ve met a couple of times, ex-colleagues, husband’s colleagues, school/ university friends etc. I decided I needed to be careful of what I say and who I say things to especially when the expat community here seems to know each other. Fortunately nothing drastic has happened (yet? or not to my knowledge), but sometimes things can be misinterpreted or used against us without my anticipation. And this is what I want to avoid as much as possible.
Since Facebook is a platform for me to connect with family and friends, and since there are different levels of friendship, I decided to restrict future posts to family and selective friends. They are people who I can trust to not fabricate lies for the sake of “entertainment”.
Now, I get the vibes that some of you might be shouting “anti-social!!!”. Well, it is not as though I’ve unfriended someone or restricted a person because of something they did that pissed me off. No one on Facebook has done anything to offend me. But I simply feel that all Facebook does is to try maintain an artificial connection between me and my “friends”. I’m interested in making meaningful friendships, like the ones I have now with some people (eg. when your friend texts you even when she’s in labour, when she’s excited about getting married, just being silly or somebody that I can actually hang out with).
With plenty to do each day, I reckon it’s time I actually set aside quality time (in reality and virtually for those not living in Frankfurt) for those that matter in my life.