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How many Facebook friends to you have?
Secondly, how many apps do you have for messaging – i.e. Whatsapp, fb messenger, Viber, Line, normal sms, etc. that you actively use?
Now after you have answered these two questions, I would like you to ask yourself the following:
Of those [insert number here] Facebook friends, with how many do you have regular contact, how many are you friends with out of politeness – Politeness in this context meaning you do not dislike the person but are actually relatively ambivalent and are friends with them based on feeling guilty, or otherwise? How many of these Facebook friends are friends with you out of politeness? How many of these friendships are legacy friendships?
And lastly, what is your average reply time when it comes to messaging apps?
As I was lying in bed sick with what I suspect to be the flu yesterday, I thought about these questions and how much time and energy we spend “keeping up appearances” or replying to messages out of politeness. I thought about the fact that I have about 5 different messaging apps and how my reply time is appallingly shit. Not that anyone should be telling us how and when to reply, but seeing some messages unread for weeks does make me shudder.
But then I thought about how trying to keep up with everyone wears us thin and actually takes precious time away from the relationships we WANT to have and the things we WANT to be doing.
At the end of the day, it’s not actually possible to be friends with 400 some people. It’s just not. But social media is a strange thing. Because it makes us expect that everyone is available 24-7 at the drop of a hat while forgetting to take into account the fact that we all now have 50x as many people expecting this of us – and not just expecting us to remain in contact, but to do so consistently and as actively as humans once did before Facebook.
We focus a lot on how social media affects our lives both positively and negatively, but in general when the topic of social media is being explored, we are focusing specifically on apps like Twitter and Instagram – public social media platforms which focus on sharing and followers. But we forget that Facebook and messaging apps are also part of social media and aside from our public personas we also have a life online consumed by social media where our private real life world blends with the web. And this blending can be just as unhealthy.
As a result of these ruminations, I went on my first Facebook purge of 2017 between blowing my nose and trying to stave off my fever. I deleted a handful of people, but still kept a lot of work colleagues or people I thought could be potential work connections, as well as friends of friends, as I just couldn’t be as ruthless as I wanted to be. I’m sure I will be doing another purge soon, but it raises an interesting point that although our Facebooks are supposed to be our private spaces online for keeping in touch with friends and family, the majority of us still have a friends list at least half-full of old classmates, work colleagues, etc. who we simply cannot bare to unfriend for fear of offending.
But here’s the thing – what the fuck is a Facebook friend anyway? A Facebook friend does not a true friendship make. And even if we unfriend someone, it doesn’t even mean we dislike the person, it just means we do not have the energy at this point in time (but maybe in the future) to try and cultivate that relationship. We live in an era where we are so afraid of offending and become offended so easily at an unfollow or a de-friending. So many people expect others to be as attached to their devices as they are and when an SMS is sent, expect immediate responses.
Honestly, in an ideal world, I would have a Friends list of less than 60 people so that I could actually devote substantial time to each and every person in my list – and even 60 is probably 40 too many.
I’m not really sure if my thought experiment has any particular conclusion, and I am typing this post up at 1:38 am in the morning through a haze of sickness, so I’m not even all that sure if I am making any sense, but what I am trying to say is this – when it comes to living with intension, we should be doing so in all areas of our lives and it’s almost insulting to those we truly care about that we waste our time with those who don’t hold these positions in our lives. If we really paired down our communication to those who really matter, we could all be better friends to the ones we truly care about.
And if we finally put aside this idea of all or nothing we would also realise it’s not a dick move to de-friend someone or decide we do not have time for someone. Not having time to meet up for a coffee or chat on Facebook is not saying you dislike that other person. Hell, I’m sure that other person is a fine ass individual doing awesome shit with their lives. But we can’t be friends with everyone and not everyone can be friends with us either.
I was talking about this exact topic with Betti on Facebook just a few hours ago and she mentioned how stressed out she was getting at trying to keep up with all of the different people in her life and how she literally felt bad about not being able to give attention to each and every person who she found interesting and felt was worthy of becoming friends with. She eventually drew a friendship pyramid and created a hierarchy of the people in her life. At the top were her closest friends, next came those who were lovely but were more acquaintances at this point in her life, next, those who have drifted from her due to time and geography but who she would still happily sacrifice a night or two a year for, then came people who don’t really matter, and lastly those who might even be toxic.
Now, I don’t suggest you go and do the same thing and post it all over your social media because you would definitely be incurring a shit storm. But I honestly think it’s not a bad idea to do something like this for your and your eyes only in order to help prioritise your time and re-evaluate your priorities when it comes to the relationships you have in your life. I am personally definitely considering doing the same.
Photography: Victoria Reinsch
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