Facebook is a very strange thing. It has taken the word “friend” and made it mean things that it never meant before. Or possibly it meant these things to other people before, and I wasn’t aware of it. Any term that encompasses my boss, my mother, my wife, that guy I went to high school with and can’t quite remember, and some random stranger I met at a conference 12 years ago … well, it’s not very specific.
And now that my daughter is 13 and has a Facebook account, we’ve talked with her about how she defines friend, and the simple fact that she’d say some things to her friends – you know, her real friends – that she wouldn’t say to us. This leads to a need to carefully choose her “friends”, and carefully choose what she says.
When we were kids, they’d say “this will go on your permanent record”, and it meant exactly nothing. Today it means something. Everyone from future employers to your priest to your school teachers to that person that’s thinking of asking you out to dinner, will have access to whatever you choose to post on Facebook.
Anything you say can and will be used against you.
And, sure, we all know this, but it’s obvious from sites like Failbook that an awful lot of people don’t really think that it applies to them.
I have 246 Facebook “Friends”. At least half of them are folks that I really have to stop and think before I can figure out who they are. Some of them are a friend of a friend, and others are folk who I vaguely knew in college, or who snubbed me in high school. My main activity on Facebook is rejecting invitations to a cause, or ignoring a poke or a water balloon. And it’s simply impossible to keep up with the various updates, notes, statuses, and so on.
A few days ago, I thought it might be a good idea to prune my list of so-called “friends”. I posted to my Facebook status:
Rich is considering trimming his Facebook Friends list. Nothing personal, but it’s just impossible to keep up
I immediately got several responses, with people saying that they hoped they make the cut, or giving suggestions of how to manage the firehose of data.
And as I looked at the list, I discovered that it was indeed hard to decide who to drop from the list. They’re all there because they contacted me and asked to be reconnected with me. With only a tiny handful of exceptions, they all invited me. I’ve only invited perhaps a dozen of the folks on my list. So presumably these folks had enough esteem for me that they thought me worth reconnecting with.
And, each person that I considered removing, I realized that it was, indeed, pretty neat to be back in touch with this person, some of them after more than 20 years. So … I guess I’ll just try to figure out some way to manage the data. Apparently there’s Yet Another Facebook App for doing just that.
But … I still can’t keep up with the endless stream of messages of one kind or another.