Friday, December 10, 2010

Who are your REAL friends?

The latest argument I'm having with my 13-year-old daughter concerns her friends. Not her real friends, per se, as I'm fine with all of them. I'm confident they will grow up to be perfectly functioning adults in spite of their passion for the word "like."

No, I'm talking about the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of friends she will acquire the moment she logs onto Facebook, something her mother and I have still forbidden her to do.

"Why can't I be on Facebook," she asked one evening? "I'm like the only kid in school without a Facebook account."

If you're keeping score, throughout her short life she has also been like the only kid who at one point was without:

- a cell phone
- a Macbook
- pierced ears
- a later curfew

Keep in mind that she texts her friends so often, I fear her thumbs will be worn down to nubs by the time she graduates high school. Her mother and I will be forced to type her college applications while she taps out texts to her friends using her elbows.

"You're on Facebook. Why can't I be?" was one of her desperate questions when she saw she was losing the battle.

I quietly explained that I also pay property taxes and I would be more than happy to charge her for the square footage in her room if she wants to be an adult. I then explained why I enjoy Facebook: namely because it gives me the opportunity to reestablish connections with long lost acquaintances.

You're 13," I said. "Who have you lost touch with?"

She retreated to her room to ponder her next move - and no doubt calculate the square footage just in case.

The day is coming when I relent and let her open a Facebook account. But I think she will be amazed when she realizes how difficult it will be to manage all her newfound "friends." I recently “friended” my 300th person in cyberspace. “Friended” incidentally, is another word that technology created, sort of like “Googling.” “Friend” used to be a noun; now it’s a verb.

I can remember when I only had 100 friends, then 200, and now 300 and climbing. I “friended” four more people today so the official count stands at 304.

Problem is, I don’t know who half of these people are.

Where did I meet the “professional makeup artist from Florida?” Who exactly is the guy who keeps sending me “Get Out of Jail Free” cakes via Facebook? And why exactly did I choose to be friends with the “president of a management company that represents eco-friendly professionals?” There must have been SOME reason because this guy has 4,724 other friends. I’m guessing I won’t be getting a Christmas card from him any time soon.

Speaking of Christmas cards, on the same day that I friended my 300th Facebook user, I sat at my desk addressing holiday greeting cards, complete with personal notes. I recognized every name on the list. In many cases I could instantly recall the names of kids, pets and job titles.

Therein lies the difference between Facebook friends and actual friends: friendship. Your actual friends are there for life. Your Facebook friends are there to clutter your life
When I was 12, I had two friends. John, Gerry and myself were inseparable as we navigated the tricky world of middle school. We hung out together, studied together and learned about girls together.

When I entered high school I expanded my social network by adding about four more friends. At 17, I graduated high school with what I considered to be more than enough friends: nine.

Now I’m 48. If I added nine friends for every 17 years of my life, I should have about 41.7 friends.

Instead I have 300.

Luckily Facebook allows you to “group” your friends by category. I’ve heard a lot of social networking experts say this is the only way to deal with all the information that we are bombarded with every day, be it email messages, blog posts, newsletters or contacts. Sort them into groups and look at those groups at your convenience rather than all at once.

So here are the Facebook groups I have developed. Go ahead and use them if you think your Facebook friends list is getting out of control. Also, feel free to rename each group to suit your personal needs. I have already shared this list with my daughter, just so she is prepared.

1) Friends I actually care about
2) Friends who I can vaguely recall after something in their profile jogged my memory
3) Friends who I friended just to be polite
4) Friends who I plan to “defriend” because they keep sending me links to political sites
5) Friends who really don’t value my friendship because they have more than 5,000 other friends
6) Friends who are fans of the TV show Friends
7) Friends whose names I don’t recognize and aren’t helping matters because their profile pictures are animals
8) Friends who I didn’t need to friend because they are family members. (Shouldn’t that be enough?)
9) Friends who I accidentally friended by clicking on the wrong icon
10) My dog. After all he is man’s best friend

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