I.M.H.O., Social Media

Quantifying Friendship

Many years ago, my honorable mother had told me to always pick my friends wisely. Quoting the quaint adage, she warned, in her stentorian voice, a person is known by the company he or she keeps.

Conceptually, Facebook has made it possible for anyone to have a nearly limitless number of “friends.” The degree of separation between any one member and another, on average, is a mere 3.74 degrees.

As a policy, however, the social network giant allows one a limited number of friends. One can keep adding one person after another till one hits the 5,000 mark. To accommodate more, one has to create a “fan” page. Perhaps even Facebook knows that it’s humanly not possible to have that many friends.

Back in the analog age, friendships matured over time. One chose friends with a degree of discernment, with care, with taste. As we all know, in the era of social networks, they occur overnight, literally, even thoughtlessly sometimes.

Relationship-building has little to do with the matching of wavelengths of any two individuals and more with a quantitative race to pile on more and more people onto one’s social set. The more, the merrier.

Quite a few times, I’ve been the recipient of “drive-by” friending. What motivates people, I wonder, to tap on the profiles of perfect strangers, and then add them as if they were arithmetic entities? The motives could be many: dating, networking, stalking, flirting, selling, propagandizing, who knows what.

What after that? My experience in this area, so far, has followed a clear pattern. In most instances, I’d never hear again from the person who’d sent the request. He or she would fall all but silent.

One day, abruptly, without rhyme or reason, someone would “Like” a status update, without even reading it. Now and then, someone would “Poke” me. Another will ask me to take a quiz to discover out if I regard myself as sexy. When I’m about to conclude that the string of absurdities cannot get any longer, someone will ask me to plough his or her parcel of pixelated farmland.

I don’t know if this phenomenon has a name, but it certainly isn’t “friendship” in any shape or form. Most people who engage in such behavior, I’ve observed, fall below what I’ve coined the “intellectual poverty line.” They are, simply put, stupid.

The very act of adding friends is inexhaustibly meaningless. I admit to having subtracted many. My directory has stagnated, with little promise of ever multiplying. Math never was my strong suit, anyway.

I wouldn’t like a gargantuan collection of “connections” that I don’t know or care to know about. I still choose “friends” wisely.

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