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How many friends do you have in the world? Did a specific number just pop into your head? Was it, by any chance, the exact number of your facebook friend count?

If so, I recommend you get your right hand, close your eyes and give yourself a sturdy uppercut.  Don’t delude yourself.  Most of those people aren’t your friends.

At least not in the sense that the Old English language inventor dudes intended.   According to these blokes, the word ‘friend’ was used to define a relationship with ‘strong feelings, independent of sexual or family love’.

Facebook_friends_vs_real_friendsSo ask yourself, just how ‘strong’ are the feelings you have for that guy you met once when you were out partying with your friends. Or the girl who was in your uni study group that one semester, who didn’t even show up half the time because she was habitually hungover.

Surely the term ‘friends’ on facebook has to be the loosest interpretation of the word in the history of the universe.  Take a look at your facebook friend list – odds are that you wouldn’t even realise if 35% of them were hit by a bus tomorrow.  That is, of course, if it weren’t for the hundreds of facebook memorial messages from your mutual ‘friends’ followed shortly by the facebook event funeral invite.

They aren’t your friends. They are just numbers in a race to be seen as the most digitally popular.  They are pawns in your web of vapid self-promotion. And we are all guilty of that – well all of us but those people (whose names we can’t quite remember) who don’t have a Facebook account.

I recently sat next to one of my facebook ‘friends’ on the train home – over an hour we sat there exerting a tremendous effort to pretend that we were so busy and engrossed with our phones that we hadn’t even noticed the other.   In desperation I turned to facebook chat to save me from the awkwardness, only to find her online there too. Double awkward.

That day I deleted over 150 of my ‘friends’ from facebook. These people probably care more about the intricacies of quantum computing than they do about my weekend activities. And if they don’t, then personally I find that a little creepy. I’m not sure what is worse… but either way I’m not interested in them and I’m even less interested in them being interested in me, so I deleted them from my facebook friend list, and effectively from my life in general.

And much to Zuckers’ distress, my general wellbeing and emotional security was not in the slightest impaired. I felt exactly the same – no less popular, no smaller-friend-count-anxiety. Imagine that. And as for them, I’m pretty sure they didn’t even realise it happened, because half of them have tried to add me again, which leads me to believe they never even realised we were friends before.  At least I hope so because otherwise they are just really, really desperate.

It makes you think – just as facebook is in the process of trying to trademark the term ‘face’– as if anyone but Zuckers would think that wasn’t completely absurd – I wonder if they are inadvertently trademarking the term ‘friends’. Because slowly it seems that people are not only no longer your friend if they don’t have facebook (let’s face it, they have been long forgotten), but  the term ‘friend’ is widening to include your friend’s cousin who you were introduced to for a fleeting 5 seconds at that bbq you went to three years ago.

[The only bonus is that when you come across them in another three years you’ll remember their name… along with their relationship status, what they did on the weekend and how they like their steak.]

The question is, is facebook diluting the real meaning of the word? If Zuckers had never created the social behemoth would we dare to label our friend’s cousin that we met at a bbq that one time our ‘friend’? Or that nerdy guy who went to your primary school but never actually talked to you for more than two minutes? No, you wouldn’t.  They aren’t your friends.  As if you even have the emotional capacity to genuinely give a shit about that many people.

But hey, at least you look popular.

Or do you?

For the sake of the sanctity of our beloved English language I’m imploring you: go to your facebook friend list and delete five people. Maybe even ten. Or if you want to be a real hero (like me) go absolutely crazy and cull more than one hundred.  You don’t need to be ruthless but if there are so-called friends on that list that you wouldn’t care to say hello to if you ran across them on the street, it’s time to stage a facebook breakupation.

I love it when I create stupid words.

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