The F word; nothing untoward, but ‘Facebook’. Loaded with an array of meanings, uses and opinions, with 845,000,000 current active users, Facebook is continuing to take the virtual world by storm.
With 8 years of history, Facebook is home to a diverse gaggle of people, with different uses for their accounts. Writing an article on the origins of Facebook for another website this week got me and some of my friends thinking about the politics surrounding facebook, and whether a ‘poke is just a poke’.
Twitter is gradually moving up the ranks, where the gap between it and Facebook is lessening rapidly. Why is this? Facebook is more personal, there are more options to poke, like, comment, create events etc etc (let’s not get into the farmville nonsense) whereas Twitter is not strictly as stalker-friendly with ‘check-ins’ and the likes. Discussing the ever popular topic of ‘unfriending’, the question rose to why there is such anger and upset surrounding the ‘unfriend’ option.
In real life if you dislike someone, or no longer talk to someone you won’t walk past and whisper ‘ex-friend’ or ‘somebody that I used to know’ (can you guess which song i’m currently listening to?), yet a simple ‘unfriend’ click on facebook forces a notion of pain, paranoia and ‘WELL THEN, IT’S THEIRRRRR LOSS’ whilst secretly thinking ‘where did I go wrong? Why don’t they want me on their news feed even though we haven’t spoken since the feeble ‘happy birthday x’ last march’.
At this point in my life, I have just finished my undergraduate degree in English. Cause for celebration, frolicking in the sun and lots of memory making with my real-life friends, not ‘facebook friends’. The transition from university to post-university life means the inevitable ‘facebook friend cull’, and in my eyes there is nothing wrong with this.
I’ve always been open with my facebook friends. If something hilarious happens to me (usually does once a week) I’ll write a status about it…past statuses of mine is proof that if your friends are having a bad day and you write a status about handing an attractive boy a tampon instead of a pen, then their day is automatically not so bad. I don’t mind being the butt of the joke if it means making someone else smile, after all I laugh at myself all the time. Yet, after university, with the drink-fests ending, the lectures concluding and the start of summer beginning, am I really going to talk to the 1,132 people I have on my facebook? The answer….absolutely not. People have been branded facebook ‘whores’ by having 500-600 friends…I dread to think what i’d be labelled. However when you’re at a senior school like mine and working on the head girl team like I was, it isn’t that impossible to rack up a large ‘friend’ network with younger years, acquaintances and the people who you used to sit next to in choir. Yet, I guess a part of growing up is learning to let go of things, and this doesn’t just have to be the old clothes you keep in your home wardrobe ‘just in case’, but instead, the real life people who you just don’t speak to any more.
The reason I wanted to explore the politics surrounding unfriending on Facebook is because I am about to go on a facebook cull myself and wanted to understand why people do it. There, in my eyes, is nothing malicious about unfriending, (unless in a specific case it is done with malicious intent), it is just common fact that you’d rather not share every detail about your life with people who just want you on their list to ‘stalk’ or to see who you’re dating, how much weight you’ve put on whilst at university, or if you’ve made it to university or even dropped out of university. I may sound bitter, but on talking to people about it, stalking other people’s profiles is one of the main reasons people stick with Facebook.
If you’ve read this (ironically through my Facebook share) then find I am no longer a ‘friend’ on facebook, please don’t take it to heart. I’ve been deleted in the past as we all have, and am now embracing that it is time to have a change and realise which real friends are in my life at present, instead of clinging to those from the past i’ll never see in the future.
Taking its origins from Friendster, the big clue is in the title, FRIENDster. I’m embarking on a spring clean of my friend list, I wish everyone well in life, and will say hello if i ever see them, but instead of just racking up numbers of people i’ve said hello to or smiled at, it’s time to keep the ‘real’ friends, for before Facebook was even invented you couldn’t ‘unfriend’ someone in a letter, not without the click of a button at least. Are you brave enough to do the same?