Are Facebook friends for real?

With Facebook’s $50 billion valuation, the big word in online is social. But I find it hard to keep up with even a circle of 30-40 friends, people I have known for a really long time. On Facebook, Linked-in and Twitter, the game is to acquire friends, contacts and followers. For sure, the word friend is being used in the broadest context – someone you have heard of and exchanged a couple of comments with. In the days of snail mail, there were pen pals. But it was with a really small group or even a couple of people. It’s hard to keep up the letter writing over a consistent period. The interactions were deep and meaningful. It’s also interesting to see how this concept made the online transition – it hasn’t

I guess that is my grouse with Facebook. It’s so superficial. Five chat windows open and no one pays any more attention than is absolutely necessary – like the famous line from ‘The Social Network‘. It’s like working the remote. Say hi. Flip. Pass a comment. Flip. The same thing is happening on both ends. This isn’t interaction, it’s social pretense. I’ve heard the defense – it’s great how you can catch up with people you’ve lost contact with. Sure. But you rarely get to know how they are now. It’s a person you used to know or met in passing.

Recently, it happened. I got through to an old friend I had lost contact with, after decades. Through Facebook. Discovered we were in the same city and caught up. Spent over 2 hours and time flew. A hobby that he got into for his son – remote controlled airplanes is now his main business. We had no cell phone interruptions, no chat windows, just a series of updates on family, friends, and career. But they won’t be consigned to the virtual space but tucked away into our collective memory. I’ll take that over a daily Facebook interaction, any day.

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