Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The value of Facebook friends.

I recently hit 500 friends on Facebook. This really surprised me. I have 500 friends? I may know 500 people, or 500 people may know me, but I do not have 500 friends. I keep coming across the number of 250 memory slots in your brain for people. This means you can remember 250 people. You know who they are, what they look like, and what their relation is to you. These slots are filled with the people that fill your daily life. It ranges from your parents to the guy you buy your coffee from every morning on your way to work. Yes, that person gets a slot. He provides a basic need on an almost daily basis. He deserves a slot. When you think about it 250 isn't that much in modern society. I mean, Jon Stewart gets a slot too. As does Brad Pitt. You know what they look like, you know what they do, what their role is in your life, what they mean to you, what needs they fulfill for you. So they get a slot. And then they start to fill up rather quickly. With the enormous amount of information and access to so many people 250 doesn't seem very reasonable. But it's the way it is. Society has developed at an enormous rate while your brains haven't been able to adapt to it yet. Even 50 years ago we had a lot less people in our lives. We didn't have internet. Not even everyone had a television. And a lot of people traveled less then they do now. So you didn't get to know that many people. You didn't need more then 250. 

We can not train our brain to memorize 500 people. I don't see where I could find the time for that, let alone actually stay in contact with all those people in a meaningful way. How much time do you need to invest in a relationship? It depends on the type of relationship. Like the coffee guy. All you want from him is your coffee and service with a smile. So all you have to do is go buy that coffee and be polite. That's not a lot of time to invest but you get just what you want. But what about those 500 friends on Facebook? Who are all those people? I'm not sure. I usually don't add people that I have only met once and probably will never see again. Sometimes I do though and then wonder why I did. Those people, as nice as they may be, don't add anything to my life. Clicking 'like' in response to their posts every now and then isn't much of a relationship. But they do clutter my wall and I clutter theirs. So why do we keep them?

I remember when Facebook first popped up. People tried to get as many friends as they could, to get a certain social status. People wanted quantity over quality. It's like that with a lot of things these day. Like food and most other possessions. People want more, of everything. They want more information, more people surrounding them, more status, more of everything. But while doing so we lose track of the important things. How many friends on your Facebook list can you turn to if you are in need? How many would you feel comfortable with asking them for a hug when you need one? I just checked and I get to less then 20 people I would ask. Not who I could ask, but who I would want to ask. Less then 20 out of 500. Be honest, how many would you ask for a hug? 

So who are all those other people? Some of them are random people who I don't really know. Some of them are people I used to be friends with but no longer see. Some of them are still dear to me and some of them I would like to see again. A lot of people on my Facebook are also work related. I know them from the the art scene or the gym or from working for the LGBT organization. Those are people I mostly need to keep in my network. But the question is, do I want to have them in my friends list? Why should the line between work relationships and friendships disappear? We often feel pressured to mix these things now we have social media. It's going back to the social status of having a lot of connections on Facebook. We want to secure that status at work as well. If you are popular outside your job, you must be doing something right. It's like people saying: the good ones are always taken. If you see someone is taken it must mean there is a reason for it, they must be doing something right, so you want to get in with that. If someone has a lot of friends on Facebook, they must be doing something right and you better make sure you don't lose that person. 

To be honest, I am getting a bit tired of it. I want my friends to be my friends. I don't mind working with some of my friends but I don't have to be friends with everyone I work with. And I mean being friends as in I would invite you to my birthday. I don't mean I don't have to be nice to anyone I work with. I'm tired of the social pressure. And I think a lot of people are. So I am going to clean out my friends list so I only have people on there that I care about and people who are important to me in a direct manner. That way I can put more time into the people that really matter to me and I don't get distracted by all the people that I don't really know and that don't really know me either. Everyone is more then welcome to follow my page of course. And if I delete you it's not because I think you're a bad person. The thing is, I only have 250 slots, and so do you.

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