Friday, January 05, 2007

You've Got a Friend in Me

By: Michael Akerman

I feel like making a post.

And something has bugged me since I first came to college, so I'll do that (especially since it's a short topic).

What on Earth possesses people to collude such digital collections as a network of 200 friends on a site such as Facebook?

For anyone to whom that statement seems to oddly resemble themselves, let me ask you something. If I were to show you pictures, randomly selected, of the people who are among your 200 friends, could you identify them? Even first name only? What do you know about those people, without looking? Do you know their majors, their hometowns, or at least why you know them?

Can you truly call even half of them friends?

I could understand it, to some extent, if the vast majority of the culprits were female. Humanity developed around a matriarchal home life, with the mother left to care for the children. It is reasonable that, due to the necessity of cooperation with a large number of people, women have a genetic tendency toward friendliness and a drive to build a large social network. However, while most of the offenders have a vagina, a very large number of the shadows that offend me are of the more penis-toting variety.

Even if it were the case that only women collected friends, it would still be highly illogical. A social network is only as useful as it is trustworthy, and a virtual stranger is only slightly more trustworthy than a veritable stranger.

I must admit that it's just a word, friend. It shouldn't bother me. So many other words in the English language are abused to a much larger degree, and "friend" is still at least retaining its basic meaning in the form of a social relationship.

But it does bother me.

Because "friend" is (or "was," but in both cases, "should be") a special word, ranking at the worst just barely below "love." Friendships are the very network that builds communities. Friendships provide the people that found and form a cohesive, effective country. In the pinnacle of friendship's many forms, it is the idea that forms families, once one is so lucky as to find his true best friend.

So, in some ways, friendship is love. Friends should be people that can be counted on to aid you when you need aid, to soothe you when you need soothing, and to save you when they can. Yet, we are flippant. Someone can so easily be "just a friend," people are somehow not able to find time for their friends, and now we steadfastly decay into accepting any minor acquaintance as a friend, when we will surely turn around and forget him.

(It occurs to me that Facebook should add an "Acquaintance" designation, which would act like Friends, without watering down a word that so has past so wholly defined the deepest relationships of society)

So, stop it. Vow to only accept people whom you can actually count as true friends. Don't troll, as the kiddies say, for "friends" among random hot women or men. Because no one is impressed by the number of false friends you have acquired. No one is intrigued by a person who seems so desperately lonely that they have to surround themselves with a shroud of seeming popularity. The only man with true happiness is one who has true friends.

By my hand,
~Michael Akerman


Scott said...

Amen brother. Though you have not mentioned the utter chaos that is MySpace, where a person's number of "friends" can easily reach into the thousands.

Michael J. said...

Yeah, really. These sites like Facebook and MySpace serve a valuable purpose: they allow people to maintain old friendships after high school or, perhaps, allow people to meet friends they would otherwise never have met (though I'm skeptical that anyone has truly met a friend online). That being said, these "social networking" sites have turned into just another game for shallow extroverts to play. The one with the most "friends" wins. I agree with you that a friend is something more than just an acquaintance and anyone with even 100 "friends" is lying to themselves.