I was “unfriended” the other day…actually twice. One day my friend count on Facebook was 1001…the next day it was 999! What to do? Now, I’m fully aware of the superficial nature of the friendship counter on my Facebook profile. One’s friend number is entirely reflective of your FB friending criteria. For a long time I held a pretty conservative line on who I would add as a friend on FB…only someone I know very well. Then it moved to , “do I recognize their face?” Now, it depends on my mood. I usually friend anyone I can place somewhere in some iteration of my life.
One thing that Facebook has done is provide some very intriguing perspective on this idea of friendship. First of all, I can easily begin to place my 999 friends into very specific categories corresponding to different times of my life: growing up on Bayou Lafourche; going away to LSU; seminary in Fort Worth, TX; returning to Louisiana for my first ministry job; moving to Tennessee. Those can be broken down even more to the individual churches I was a part of, people I met at conferences, friends from other countries met through my travels. A pleasant surprise has been the “friends of friends” that I’ve never met face to face…we’ve only “talked” on Facebook walls and messages. I enjoy immensely conversations that spring up among friends of mine who have never met.
It’s interesting how these varied relationships have changed. There are people who I considered very close friends when we lived near each other and talked regularly who I haven’t really spoken to since we became Facebook friends. There other relationships that have deepened due to Facebook conversations…conversations that might never have occurred in person. In several instances, I’m closer now to a few people I’ve never met face to face than I am to people I used to hang out with.
One last observation…I realize that Facebook profiles place some of our personality traits and beliefs out front for people to see…things that either don’t come up in casual conversations or that we don’t necessarily want people to know. I’m not talking about sinister-loss-of-privacy-TMI kind of stuff. I now know that a couple of my friends are HUGE Metallica fans…nothing wrong with that at all, just wouldn’t have thought it at first. I know that I have some artists. Some political liberals…some political conservatives. Some theological liberals…some conservative. Some believe in God. Some do not. Gay. Straight. Pro-life. Pro-choice. yada, yada, yada… The diversity is simply amazing. And for me, it’s pretty energizing.
I’m realizing that I value the diversity and the conversations more than I do homogeneity. Maybe that’s what I truly love about Facebook. We tend to live pretty compartmentalized lives. The public faces of our offices and churches are pretty mask-like…we don’t want to rock the boat so we hold back important parts of who we are to maintain the social mores. With Facebook, I’m sitting in a large room with a thousand friends from different parts of my life. Occasional conversations pop up. Sometimes I think, “OH #$%, those two are talking politics!!!” or “I miss seeing those people on a regular basis.” or “That’s really cool!” And countless other things…I love my FB Peeps.
So I was un-friended…not sure why…could be a lot of reasons. I really don’t mind that much…it’s happened before and will happen again. Who’s going to be my next 1000th friend?
(If you’re interested, this link is to a good article about online relationships and Facebook: I’m so Digitally Close to You)