Earlier this year I decided it was time to break up with my friends. All 253 of them. They had become unmanageable and intrusive. Some were too needy. Others were annoying pests. They knew too much about me and in many cases, I knew too much about them.
Did I care what magazines they were reading? I did not. Did I want to see what they looked like drunk in a bikini, straddling their boyfriend? I did not. Did I need to know that they were ‘feeling flatulent after eating too much Nachos’? Dear lord, not, not, not.
These friendships were taking up too much of my time and not adding value to my life. So I went on to Facebook and deleted them. All of them. And then? When they began to trickle back? I deleted myself.
I never meant to have so many friends. It was quite a surprise because in real life, I’m rather anti-social. I have a couple of handfuls of very close girlfriends, a few guy friends and that’s it. So how did I manage to accumulate 253 friends on Facebook? Easily and quickly.
Step one: I fell into the trap of wanting to be popular. How deeply superficial of me. By accumulating hoards of friends on a social networking site like Facebook or Myspace, you can tangibly measure your popularity in a very high school way. And the best way to do this? By lowering your standards. Dramatically.
That would be step two on the road to an unmanageable online social life. You see, there’s an enormous gap between your definition of ‘friend’ in your real life and those you collect on a social networking site.
But online, all your contacts are called ‘friend’. That’s the only way to categorise them. Not ‘Acquaintances’, not “Ex-Co-Wokers”. Not ‘People-I-Dated-For-A-Nanosecond-And-Would-Rather-Forget’. Not ‘The-Weird-Older-Brother-Of-A-Girl-I-Went-To-Primary-School-With’. Not ‘That-Woman-From-Accounts-With-Whom-I-Exchange-Stilted-Small-Talk-In-The-Office-Kitchen”. Not ‘People-I’ve-Never-Met-In-My-Life-But-Who-Saw-My-Picture-On-Someone-Else’s-Page-And-Thought-They’d-Have-A-Crack’. And certainly not ‘Parents’.
If there were a ‘Parents’ category it would be well utilised because they’ve begun crashing their kids’ online party with gay abandon. Some parents are motivated by fun, curiosity and a desire to connect with their own friends. Others have realised it’s a nifty way to spy on their kids.
The parent-as-friend dilemma is the hot new angst on social networking sites as millions of teens and twenty-somethings realise there’s an uncomfortable line between friend and spy……
Sneaking around your teenager’s bedroom, looking in their drawers and reading their diary is so old fashioned. Why bother with that when you can let your mouse do the snooping? If you’re among your child’s Facebook or Myspace friends, you can read their messages, eavesdrop on their conversations and see their photos any time. Great for you. Awkward for them.