Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The unfriendliness of Facebook friends

By Staff

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What does it mean when someone is your Facebook friend? How many “friends” on Facebook do you have? It has been reported in the New York Times that Facebook users have an average of 130 friends, or 500, 1,000 or even 2,000. Here’s a challenge: go through your list of so-called “friends” and see how many of them you can actually remember. Guaranteed you’ll click on names and think, “Where did I meet that guy?” You may realize some of these people that have full-access to looking at your wall posts and pictures are people you don’t even speak with in the real world.

So why is this important? I have plenty of nondescript people on my friends list, so why should I care so much? You could be surprised when you confront yourself with your own reasoning behind being someone’s “friend.”

There are a few different kinds of “friends” on Facebook.

Obligatory friends (includes family members). These are people you went to school with or have known for years. You may not ever speak to them, or just not outside of Facebook, but it would be plain rude to have not accepted their request. We all have them. Maybe some of them you like to catch up with once in a while because you haven’t talked since high school biology, but most of them are just sort of there.

Work friends. Self-explanatory, but even if you wouldn’t talk to them also outside of a work situation, you add them because you don’t want to look like the office snob when runny-nosed Steven from accounting tells gossiping Cheryl from HR you denied his request.

Acquaintances (also somewhat obligatory). A classmate or someone that runs in the same circle as you, but whom you only share small talk with once in a while. You would ask them how their weekend was, but you’re not close. Maybe you even hung out once or twice, and you think they’re a nice person. Or maybe you just plain hate them, but you don’t want your real friends to ask you why Karen can’t seem to find the pictures you posted from your birthday six years ago.

Actual friends. That’s right. Real life, they know your loves, hates and worries, they are someone you spend time with and they know the real you and not the person whose pictures they were creeping the other night at 3 a.m. You scroll down the wall and see they posted almost everything you have on there and half of the pictures you’re tagged in.

Back to where we started, how are these categories important for our social lives outside of Facebook?  Well, ladies and gents, whether you signed up or not, you are actually playing a game called, “Every Man for Himself.” Facebook has transformed into a giant paintball game. 

No matter how many friends you have, anything those friends do in this cyber world can feel like a paintball right to the gut.  

For example, you write on someone’s wall or send them a message and they don’t write back? POW.

The dreaded ex has a new lover and their kissy photos are all over his wall? BANG. Did you go to look at someone’s page or tag them in an old photo and realize they defriended you?  BULLSEYE.

How do you rationalize when someone defriends you? ‘Well, I’m not really friends with them, so whatever.’ A click of the mouse and it will never cross their mind again. But it’s possible that your anger is raging, ‘What made them so high-and-mighty to do such a thing?’  ‘How could Jenn from freshman year chemistry 111 lab defriend me when we did so many equations together?’

How does this differ from the real world? Because if you bump into someone from a while back, you may actually stop and chat. You would also maybe wonder where the time went and why you couldn’t keep in touch. In Facebook world, you would just creep on their pictures and never even bother with a wall post.

Or when you have a class or hang out in a group with a person that doesn’t actually even like you, they’ll probably still be pretty nice to your face, because that’s how people are. But in Facebook world, anything goes. They can be as mean as they want, because they don’t have to feel the repercussions of it. Heck, they can go ahead and de-friend you, but maybe they don’t want to make it that obvious. They’ll wait until graduation, or for one of you to move away, before getting that risky.

What are we all doing about this problem?  We’re contributing to it and would all have to plead guilty.

Delete. Goodbye to Marcy from middle school that may or may not have a premarital child by now.

Delete. So long to that guy with the weird mustache who hit on you at a coffee shop and somehow found me online.

Delete. Farewell to the dreaded ex you no longer wish to see on your news feed.

There is a treasure trove of reasons behind this gutsy move – blocking someone. You could be trying to cut out a stalking ex or sending out an impersonal “eat my shorts” to a harassing roommate who tagged you in a picture when you were hung-over and felt like death.

What we keep forgetting is, if Facebook didn’t exist, we simply wouldn’t keep in touch with anyone we don’t care that much about.

So what should you do if you have been caught up in this whole mess of emotion?

Realistically, you may do nothing. You could take a break from the site. Slowly but surely, your memories of how the social world worked pre-Facebook would be actually quite refreshing. But you may not want to deactivate your page; someone may think you defriended them and get very upset with you.

Like I said,  every man for himself.

Ashley O’Neil is a Collegian contributer.


2 Responses to “The unfriendliness of Facebook friends”

  1. boris Ilfov on February 17th, 2011 4:05 pm

    Ridiculous. Please, I beg, report and not retort. We readers are familiar with facebook and it’s criticisms; however, we turn towards the news for something a bit more enlightening. Use the Collegian’s influence a bit more wisely next time.

    a disappointed reader,


  2. Diana on February 19th, 2011 12:32 pm

    This is true and relatable. Well said, bravo.

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