There was once a day where we wore our total number of Facebook friends like a badge of honor.
It was a thrilling experience — meeting somebody, learning just the bare minimum about them so that you can track them down online afterwards, and send over that request. Whether you saw them again after that first encounter is unimportant; you’re Facebook friends now. The equivalent to being blood brothers.
When you’re young and energetic, there’s no bounds to how many friends you can have. Indeed, there’s some people who accumulated thousands of Facebook friends over the course of a couple of years.
But after college, Facebook serves a totally different purpose. It’s no longer about expanding your network and meeting new people. Rather, it’s about keeping in touch with the people who matter most.
In a convoluted way, Facebook during college is about adding friends, and post-college, it’s about maintaining friends.
And now — with everybody aware of how one single blunder on social media can tarnish your reputation — people are looking to condense their network, not expand it.
At this moment, I have 416 Facebook friends. That number has pretty much stayed the same over the last few years. Not because I haven’t added friends, but for every one I do add, some other person who I no longer speak to defriends me. I don’t take it personally. In fact, I think there’s very little to gain by remaining Facebook friends with people you know for certain you’ll never see again.
But once you hit your mid-20s, friend requests become fewer and far between. And that’s what makes it so surprising when you do receive one. I’d imagine that this is not necessarily the case for females, who still likely get requests from men, who are looking for a little more than just an online friendship.
Today, however, I received a friend request, and as I clicked the “accept” button, I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I did so. Whenever I see the friend request icon highlighted atop the screen, I instantly start to think, “Who the hell did I meet recently?”
A lot of the time — at least lately — it ends up being spam. And I don’t accept friend requests from people I don’t know, just like how I don’t answer phone calls from area codes I don’t recognize. Or from my mom.
Usually it just ends being somebody I’ve known for a while, and we were both too lazy to connect to one another digitally. But the point is, one of the things you realize as you age, is that nobody is really going out of their way to try to meet you anymore. And I mean that in a general sense, and not that there’s something inherently unlikable about any of us that would make people not want to meet us. Unless you’re ugly.
But that doesn’t mean we still can’t make friends in real life! Isn’t that what matters, anyway? Forming connections with people in the flesh, and not behind a computer screen? Don’t we want people to like us for our personality, and not our profile pictures?
And shouldn’t we learn that the quality of our friends is what’s most important, and not the quantity?
Yeah, on second thought, I’d sacrifice one of my real life friends for 20 more Facebook friends.