A couple days ago, I made my thousandth “friend” on Facebook, and it happened to occur right before my birthday – an event that FB makes shockingly easy for the well-wisher, yet utterly delightful for the receiver. It’s one of those transactions you can complain about until it’s your turn, and you realize how wonderful it is.
The two events occurring in the same weekend gave me pause: do I really have a thousand friends? As I’ve said before, I tried to calculate my friend number around 1999 or so, when an inner voice told me – at the depths of my despondency, mind you – that I’d already met the girl I was going to marry. That turned out to be right, of course, but my “number of actual friends” estimation was 500.
Granted, we’ve all met a lot of people in the last 14 years, but how inaccurate was that number? Let’s start by defining what a “friend” is, regardless of how it might happen on Facebook. I’ll say that a friend is defined by at least one of the following:
• someone with whom you’ve exchanged ongoing meaningful dialogue, whether it was work, financial, platonic or romantic in nature
• someone whose personality, habits, quirks, or secrets would allow you to differentiate them from all others
• someone with whom you have a shared history, or having gone through a similar ordeal, or having been through a meaningful event in the same place at the same time
Or perhaps you want to make it simpler, such as “someone with whom you have mutual respect/understanding because of past contact.”
We all have a different idea about what “friend” means (and I’d love to hear yours as well), especially when it seems as though social media and the internet have abused the concept, or at least stretched it into meaninglessness. On Facebook, friend counts are frequently absurd: you can forget about people in high school and college who have friended every member of their graduating class, and half of all the others.
Others with insanely high numbers are those who use Facebook as a means to some other end, a business venture, a band, or a following. And of course, there are those folks, especially in Hollywood, who get bombarded with friend requests because “knowing” them may offer some career advantage.
I concede it’s all very silly. But upon arriving at 1,000 it seemed like it was time to take back the notion of friendship. Make it mean something again, at least to me, and to celebrate the people who have affected my life so wonderfully.
So here’s what I’m going to do. I am going to write at least a couple of sentences about every “friend” I have. I won’t do it on every blog, and I’ll never do more than 3-4 at a time, but I have a pretty fucking good memory, and I promise none of them will be boring. Nor will they paint anyone in an unflattering light, because this is all about LOVE LOVE LOVE, baby.
Like all of you, I have some FB friends that I don’t know, or I do know, but need to be reminded. So if you hear from me, and I ask how we know each other, don’t immediately think I’m a dick. There’s plenty of time for that later.
I shan’t be embarrassing anybody, nor outing strangers, or making this a self-involved ego trip. I just want to try forging an actual connection between the concept of “friendship” and the reality of people who have impacted our lives. And if that ain’t cool with you, let me have it.