Saturday, September 11, 2010

The "facebook cycle"

I read a wonderful quote about a week or so ago about how facebook is a mirror; it allows us to focus on ourselves, hiding such narcissism under the guise of focusing on relationships. How many times have you heard someone complain, "so-and-so added me as a friend on facebook, but never talks to me!"? This led to the birth of the facebook cull: going through your list of online friends and removing them if they have seemingly ceased to communicate with you.
But what of the log in your own eye, I ask? You complain that they never speak to you, but when was the last time you spoke to them? A relationship cannot be one-sided. It takes two to tango, so to speak - it takes two to add one another as friends on facebook (even if someone complains, "but he/she added me!" it is worthwhile to remember that you're the one who still had to click "ok"), and it takes two to keep that friendship active.
Which is why I do not participate in the facebook cull. I have what is known in my inventive parlance as the facebook cycle.
I try, with a reasonable reliability and regularity (in practice, I'm still very bad at this, as I find it does take a significant amount of time), to contact everyone in my facebook friends list. To comment on a great photo from their vacation, to send them a link I think they'll appreciate, to write "Remember the time we...?" on their wall or even just poke them. And the response I get is amazing (because, of course, I have wonderful friends!). I hear hilarious stories, I enjoy fantastic pictures, I'm directed to the funniest and most sincere websites on the internet, and I get to stay in touch with people whom I consider friends. This is really the important point. These people are my friends, and I value that friendship - even on facebook - and so putting in the time and effort to nurture that friendship is important to me. It turns out to be important to my friends as well.
So the next time you're considering a facebook cull, trying contacting those people first. After all, if facebook really is about relationships, it means we're all in this together.


  1. More than this, it represents a deeply superficial view of personal relationships. Of my very closest friends who are physically remote to me, there are those with whom I sometimes go years without contact. That makes them no less valuable to me. Frequency of contact is a very poor metric for the value of a relationship, especially withing a medium of which the focus is mundane inanity.

  2. An excellent point from the Evil Doctor. Frequency of contact is indeed a poor metric for the value of a friendship in many cases. Anecdotally, there have been several instances in the past couple years when I have visited friends whom I haven't seen in ages, and not because I spoke often to them on facebook (in fact, it was several instances of facebook actually doing "good" - because I was able to discover, via facebook, they lived near where I was visiting, or vice versa, I was able to meet up with them). And conversely, I'm sure we all know someone who "speaks much but says little," who may in the end be merely an acquaintance (I believe there was a Hyperbole and a Half post about this social faux pas recently...).

  3. I understand compleaty. It is a two-way road.


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