Every time I get to around 150 people on my face-book profile, my fingers start itching to delete (unfriend) a few. I usually do this to those who having once friend’ed me, think their part in the relationship is over and disappear somewhere leaving the ghost of their profile picture on my friends list for aeons together. I usually have a pretty short memory of my online friends and if someone has not interacted with me at least in the last six months- off they go..chop, chop. Hello, new friends.
There is a scientific basis behind why I am doing this to. I once read something about this a long time ago on New Scientist and its stuck with me ever since- that you usually do not possess 150 friends in real life and you simple cannot keep up with more than that number on a daily basis even if online, which when I read it seemed an eminently sensible advice. The brain simply cannot process or remember more than that number of friends even if you are a MENSA champ… Or Viswanathan Anand.
A large Friends list:
I have seen lots of people who boast about the huge number of friends lists they have online and how people follow every word they utter (or type, as the case may be). But according to me, these people usually have either something to sell to their friends/followers or they are filled with complexes (and narcissism) and look for validation online by posting photo, statuses or even blog publicizing (under the guise of short stories… Ring a bell anyone?) every day. Every single like by a groupie or even a stranger (Oh My God…you look soo beautiful di/ machan your muscles look awesome) is like shooting heroin up the nose for these people. They live literally for that kick.
What I Expect:
I try to think that I am different from the above group because friendship to me, means much more than just sharing an occasional photo of your offspring on the wall and waiting for everyone to like or comment “Cho Chweet”…Even if you do log on the ‘net occasionally I expect my friends to post a hi or a hug on my wall (and I am not saying no to kisses, ladies please note). My friend while explaining the premise of face-book to me suggested it’s there to connect with long lost friends- a sort of pseudo-alumni network. But once again connected, after a long absence, why do long lost friends keep staying lost? Why not share/comment/joke on a daily basis and meet up as much as time permits. That’s my idea of friendship- not merely looking at others picture albums. Hence the regular pruning of friends list every time I breach that magical number of 150 to get rid of dead wood.
But what I Get:
Which lead me directly to the next point. How to add new friends on Fb? When I first started my face-book page (after migrating from doomed Orkut), I had a very strict policy of adding only people I had met and known in real life as friends – to avoid the psychos, creeps and assorted serial-killers who troll the net. And another iron-clad rule of mine was never to send a friend request, but only to accept (or not) those who requested me. I soon realized the foolishness of this piece of self-worship and deleted that rule which was restricting me- to add people of all countries/genders who I felt reflected a certain mindset in empathy with mine. This made for cozy group discussions but which I felt constrained me from hearing alternative viewpoints and hindered my development. I came out of my comfort zone, added new (and risky friends) who occasionally kicked my butt online- but it was worth it. My life and my views was richer compared to when I was just hanging out with my homies. I even sent in friend request to girls with goo looking profile pics (oh! How the mighty have fallen) But I still retain my little suspicious mind when it comes to newly added friends unless and until they prove themselves conclusively to be real people and not fake ids.
On Online Crushes:
So what are the criteria to determine fake id’s? Is there any fool proof method? I know not- maybe you can share if you know one. Which brings me to my next point- online crushes- a knockout profile pic, a few likes and comments, a few words exchanged on face-book messenger and you are well on the way to a secret (and strong) desire to get closer to that new person on the scene- your awesome new FB friend, for whose every comment and post you log on multiple times a day, scrutinize every bit of their timeline with the care given to PhD theses’ etc. If you reflect calmly, without those raging hormones (singing soft notes in your ears) won’t you find this approach misguided? How do you determine – just based on Timeline that they are really deserving of your admiration? That their achievements are real and not some trash copied off someone else’s CV.? Some soul searching could be required on this matter before you fall head over heels in online love, only to see that the next cover photo from the dream friend is an engagement/wedding snap- which will snap you back to reality pretty soon.
On Celebrity Following:
As someone once told me- an achiever is famous for achieving something while a celebrity is famous for just being someone. I find a lot of people adding celebrity’s to their friends list without again verifying that they are adding the right person or a fake celebrity profile. The newspapers are full of stories about these kinds of scams, so I don’t have much to add to this. So beware these fakes if you don’t want to end up as a viral video on you-tube.
Your Friends are who you are:
The choices people make about who to invite into their lives are some of the most important choices we make on a long term basis and hence we need to make sure to choose them for the right reasons. Disposable friendships help you pass the time when you are bored out of your skull, but they offer very little value in real life. If real friendships are rare to find in real life then think how much more rare they would be online. Can you think of any one of your online friends whom you can say with confidence is a 3AM friend? Someone you can pick the phone and just call (with no apologies for disturbing) at any time of the day or night and be sure that they will pick up and answer you? If you do say “Yes” to that question, you are indeed lucky. For the rest of us unfortunate mortals, it takes time to develop trust and then, only then, that real friendship blossoms. And of course, getting your heart broken a few times along the course is par for the course too.
So if you take care to develop friendship slowly, it’s going to last longer, rather than those heedless, best buddies in two days, types. So here’s to friends- both on and offline.
(P.s.Pics courtesy Google Images)