I’m dating myself here, but I remember a time when a friend was someone I’d not only met in person, but actually liked. I’d been to most friends’ homes. They’d been to mine. I’d known most for years, sometimes decades. We’d grown close mostly by talking – at work, at school, sometimes over the phone. That last one is something like instant messaging, with sound.
I realize that version of friendship is outdated as film cameras, which, by the way, I gave up just a couple years ago. As we all know, a friend these days is someone who clicked the confirm button on your friend request. I try to limit my Facebook friends to people I know, quaint as that may sound. My friend Bill is more typical. His Facebook page claims he has 4,964 friends. I’ll bet he’s never met half of them. Even with my efforts to avoid friending strangers, I just counted 19 Facebook friends whose names and faces don’t ring a bell. At my age, it’s possible we crossed paths at one time and I simply forgot. But I doubt we were ever close.
You’d think I’d recognize friends from their profile pictures, but I’m not sure those are always accurate. Judging by their profile photos, seven of my friends are dogs and one is a deer.
With this new version of friendship comes new protocols. The old-fashioned, touchy-feely friendships took time and effort to build. But once built, they were solid as a brick house. Facebook friends are solid as a house of cards. Still, I’ve managed to hold onto most of my friends through several generations of iPhones. Here are some tips for social-media friendships, with minor identifying details changed to keep friends from becoming unfriends.
- Develop a tolerance for the dull and the witless. Among the posts I came across today was one announcing the writer was flying from Orlando to Chicago. For his geography-challenged friends, he included a map of the United States showing Orlando, Chicago, and a dotted line connecting the two. Another announced that he’s flying from Los Angeles to Miami by posting a photo of a half-empty glass of beer at an airport bar. Yet another traveler posted four pictures of a roadside wall in the Dominican Republic, describing it as an “awesome use of huge rocks.”
- To keep friends from forgetting you’re alive, periodically comment on their posts, no matter how mundane. If coming up with a comment is too taxing, click on an emoticon to express your heartfelt feelings of approval, love, sorrow, anger, surprise or mirth.
- Be aware that Facebook users are deemed heartless recluses if they don’t post at least one adorable photo of their pets, children or grandchildren every 24 hours.
- Users who don’t have children, grandchildren, or pets can save their reputations by sharing “aww”-evoking photos taken by other people.
- In fact, Facebook users can share unoriginal photos and videos of just about anything. Advertisers supply many of these readymade promos with surprisingly little concern over who’s plugging their products. A runner friend posted a promo for a dietary supplement “shown to increase athletic performance.” I wonder if the manufacturer realized that a week earlier, that same runner let his Facebook friends know he’d dropped out of an ultramarathon while suffering from heat exhaustion.
- Yet another friend posted a video showing a pair of hands stuffing dill pickle halves with cream cheese and cheddar, wrapping them with bacon, baking them in the oven, then serving them with sour-cream dip. If the video does the trick, she’ll have 325 friends to commiserate with over the five pounds they gained popping Pickle Poppers.
- Finally, if so-called friends are not pressing the like button often enough for your taste, Facebook offers unlimited opportunities to put their friendship to the test. Just this morning, a friend tested mine. Her post read: “If u call yourself my buddy, friend or family; hit like, say hi, and share this to your status. (Watch, NOONE follows direction).” I just lost a friend. Callous as it may sound, I really don’t care.
I do care about friends like Susan and Gerry. Husband Bob and I are going out for dinner with them tonight. We’ll probably talk about our recent trip to California. They’ll probably talk about theirs to Austin. We’ll all talk about our kids. When I chat with them again, it’ll be over the phone. Then we’ll probably meet again for dinner, maybe take in an art festival or a high-school musical. We won’t comment on each other’s Facebook pages. They’re not even on Facebook. Come to think of it, that’s true for most of my close friends. I have no idea why. Tbh, I really don’t care.