Today I have 100 fewer friends, and I am apathetic about the loss. In fact if I am being entirely honest, I feel freer, lighter, and even a little relieved. I realized a while back that a large portion of my “friends” on Facebook are virtually strangers to me—or, I suppose it is more apt to describe them as “virtual” strangers. Scrolling through my newsfeed, I was bombarded by engagement announcements, wedding photos, new babies, new puppies, vacations, funerals, and an assortment of other major life events. Facebook was the sole reason that I was cognizant of these passing occasions. Although generally intrigued by the onslaught of personal information, I found one of the three scenarios to be true: the news had already been shared with me in a more personal manner, I was entirely disinterested, or the updates inspired me to be either judgmental or jealous. At best, it was old news, and at worst, Facebook was making me a small person.
Since I seem to be continually on a self-improvement kick (out of sheer necessity), I took a thirty-day hiatus from Facebook and reflected on what it means to be and have a friend. Our Facebook friend lists are deep and generally include acquaintances from high school, floor-mates from college, and fellow conference attendees from our post-grad lives. But, are these people really our friends? I think that we can all agree that they are not. Friendship is far more than liking flattering photos and remembering to wish people well on their birthdays.
Most of us have a best friend. Some of us are lucky enough to have a handful of close friends that can be entirely relied upon: the childhood friend who knows your entire family and the name of every pet you’ve ever had in chronological order, a smattering of college friends who stuck by your side during both toga parties and late night study sessions, and of course, the friends you make after college who help you navigate your way through adulthood (I am sure that there are other types of friends but this is as far as I have gotten in life). No matter the stage of life they were acquired, my friends are the people that I have laughed with and whose shoulders I have cried on (only the truest of friends love you enough not to complain about mascara stains and runny noses—this is doubly true if you are a female crying to your male friends). They are the people that I have stayed up all night with talking about both everything and nothing at the same time. They are also the people with whom I have been silent. I know my friends’ hopes, their business schemes, and how they plan to make a living if magically transported back to the 14th century (I plan to marry but have some concerns about being freakishly tall). Most importantly, my friends are the people I would do anything for and the people I could ask anything of. It is almost an abuse of rhetoric to use the same word to describe both the individuals to whom we bare our souls and the folks who know little beyond what is included in our “about” section on Facebook. But, thus is life, and I suppose there are more significant battles waiting to be fought.
At the end of my 30 days (and after being mildly chided by a friend who I do not get to see on a daily basis), I reinstalled the Facebook app on my phone. I recognize that it can be a great way to stay in touch with family and friends who live far away, but I decided that I do not need to keep up with people to whom I never talk or who were at the height of our relationships barely acquaintances. Society’s definition of friend might not be as lofty as Aristotle’s (see the Nicomachean Ethics or read a summary of it on the internet), but I think that, at the very least, I should only apply the term to individuals whose successes bring me joy and whose sorrows I am able to mourn. So, today I have 100 fewer “friends.” Do all of my current friends fit my qualifications? Probably not, but I got tired of being on Facebook.
That’s All She Wrote