Friday, June 4, 2010

What's in a friend?

This isn't a sewing post but more of a subject that I've been pondering. I recently got a page on Facebook and so I've gone through the process of finding friends and making friend requests, yadda yadda yadda. And during this process I've noticed that some people I'm friends with on facebook have a lot of friends. I mean, A LOT. And I'm curious, do these people really think of the members of their enormous 'friends list' as real friends? I mean, are these all people that they want to spend time with, have drinks with, go shopping with or whatever? Or are these people fans?

Perfect example: a woman on my friends list, someone I went to high school with and with whom I was good friends has over 400 friends! I was surprised at this so I decided to take a look at who was on her friends list. Yes, there are people I know from high school. And guess what - a lot of these people weren't what I'd call friends with her. I mean, they're people she knows, people I know. But I wouldn't call them my friends if I was talking about them to my husband or my brother or another friend. I'd call them "this guy/girl I went to school with". Now, I know that Scott has a lot of friends on his facebook friends list but a lot of that is people he knows from all over the army and it's a great way to keep in touch with them - because they are really friends and/or colleagues and it's always good to know when you're going to be in the same part of the country as one of them, just to get a meal and catch up with them, you know? But I can't really see friending people just because you went to high school with them, especially if you have nothing in common with them. I mean, I basically have no desire to keep in touch with people who couldn't have cared less about me 20 years ago, you know?

My theory about this is that, as a country, we are desperately looking to be a part of a community or group and facebook allows us to be a part of that group - particularly if you weren't part of the in group in school. I could be wrong, but that's how I see it. Personally, I don't go looking for people to be friends with if I don't know them. I've hooked up with a lot of family members through facebook and have friended them - but only if I've met them. To me it seems disingenuous to want to friend someone you've never met or even spoken to on the phone. I don't know - maybe I overanalyze it but I'm only friends with people I want to be friends with, people I've connected with and shared a lot of good times with in real life. My friend from high school was always a really nice person whom everyone liked, so I'm not surprised that she has people on her friends list that didn't run in the same circles as her ever.

Then there's my brother (if you read this Stef, I'm not writing this to diss you or anything). Much of his life he's attracted lots of people. He doesn't always have deep relationships with all of them but I think he considers most of the people he knows to be his friends. That's just how it is with him. A lot of the people he knows are younger than him and I think that for those who are 10 years younger than him, they grew up at a slightly different time, so they tend to label people they don't know as well as friend - almost like they collect them. Nothing wrong with that - it's a different world view. He tends to have way more female friends than male friends, too - I suspect that it's because he's a well-rounded person in terms of his interests and activities. For him, I'm not surprised that he has a lot of so-called friends. Most of them, I'm sure, are Stefan fans: people who think he's so cool but don't know him that well, he's a friend of a friend of a friend, etc. All well within the realm of possibility.

Me, I've got 40 friends. Yes, one is my husband, one is my mom and one is my brother. A lot of them are cousins. But the ones who, in fact, are really friends are just that - real friends.


  1. Wow...what a question! I also have around 40 friends.
    About 5 or 6 are family.
    Some a are parents from my kids school, who I would chat to if I met them...I probably would have their phone numbers too.
    Some of my friends are companies/blogs.
    Nearly all the rest are secondary/high school classmates. I went to two secondary schools, the first was a boarding school, and it is great to see what they are all doing. I am not friends with anyone from the second school...not that they weren't friends at the time, just not the same connection as the classmates from my first school.
    I don't collect friends like you say some people do, my mother does, btw!
    I suppose I only see my facebook friends as people I would like to stay in touch with, rather than people I really call friends, in the true sense...although some are real friends.
    I found one of my cousins in America on FB..she has 1500 friends! She can't know them all!..can she?
    I am also friends with a fellow Ottobre sewist...if we are online at the same time we might chat...I have never met or actually spoken to her, but it is nicer than exchanging emails.

  2. facebook is different things for different people. for some, like you, it is for people you are close to. for others, it is for people they know. within facebook, you can separate friends lists... some posts go out to everyone, others only go to those on the VIP list.

    me? i am somewhere in between. some of my sewing friends, i have never actually met in person, but have emailed with them for years. i keep in closer contact with some of them than i do family members because we have more in common. i actually have very few family members on my friends list because we stay in contact in other ways.

    for some people, it is a popularity contest. they love having more friends than their friends. (shrug)

  3. @ Millie: I'm glad I'm not the only person with so (comparatively) few people on my friends list, lol! For me it's always mind-blowing that people would have 100's of friends on their list but 1500 - WOW! As Teri points out in her comment, maybe it's a popularity contest.

    @Teri: I find the way that people interact online so fascinating. I have an aunt who refuses to have a computer in her house, does not have email and never wants to. She says that she just can't have a relationship with someone without speaking to them at least on the phone. She's quite the anomaly in my family, since the rest of the relatives all seem to at least have email. And of course my brother is at the other end of the spectrum, as I mentioned. I think for me it's difficult for me to get to know people so I have fewer friends but the ones I have know me really well. That and I move a lot so it's always difficult to stay in contact with people that you aren't terribly close with.