A while ago, my partner and I attended a birthday party for a one-year old (yes, this is our life nowdays). This was before our daughter was born, I can’t exactly remember when we went to this particular infant’s birthday party, but it was a while ago. At this manic party, where there was something like thirty toddlers packed into this tiny townhouse, a friend (named Patience) that we used to go to church with was there with her growing brood. Before we had the chance to exchange pleasantries she exclaimed, ‘Charlie, you’ve shaved!’ I didn’t know how to respond.
I’ve been shaving since Year 10 (I maybe shaved once-per season in Year 10) and I was tempted to look at her legs and making some bitchy comment about shaving. I resisted the urge and her legs were practically hairless anyway. I stood there, giving her a rather perplexed look until she clarified her opening statement; ‘you’ve got a beard in your Facebook DP’ (Display Profile).
It was at this point that I realised how much Facebook maintains our relationships. Please, don’t think that I’m lining this girl up, I’m guilty of this too. A couple of years ago (around the same time as the anecdote in the previous paragraph) I went to my high school reunion. There was this girl that I went to school with who runs this drama academy for kids. I know this because she keeps posting updates for performances on Facebook. Part of me finds these updates annoying, because I have no interest in seeing a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves being butchered by a bunch of atonal kids who couldn’t act their way out of a paper bag. A group of us from my HSC class were chatting about what we’ve been getting up to since the early noughties and Anastasia (the girl who directs these ‘talented’ kids) was talking about her drama academy’s production of Jack and the Bean Stalk. Before she could finish the story, I interrupted her and said, ‘that was the performance where The Giant and Jack got into an argument onstage, right?’ I’d committed the same sin as Patience, I’d taken someone’s life and put it together from a handful of status updates. This seems to be all that anyone needs to form a valid friendship; a few selfies, a birthday notification and the occasional change in hairstyle.
Facebook isn’t inherently evil or anything like that. I know that there are the invasive elements that come with it and all, but I see Facebook as something like a government (or any other structure), it can operate in positive or negative fashion. What it does is that it makes us lazier. It’s easy to read about someone (aka stalk) and scroll through their photos than pick up the phone and have a chat. I’m not trying to convert you to Neo-Luddism, but it’s interesting to see how Facebook has changed to the landscape of constitutes a ‘friendship’. For example, there are people that I have crossed paths with that I was never in what could be defined as a classical friendship (eg, we never hung out or anything like that) in previous jobs, schools and social groups who remain as ‘digital friends’. I’m not having a dig at any of these people (especially if you’re one of my five readers), if I meet someone and they send me a request, I’ll probably get around to adding them. Although, I can be mighty slow in getting around to those requests (like many men, I’m extremely lazy). There are even people I have known for a very brief period of time that are still on my Facebook page today. These people are probably still because I’m lazy and cannot be bothered culling my ‘friends’. Other people on Facebook announce their friend culling processes and I find this to be rather amusing. For example, one person wrote, ‘If you’re reading this, then you’re still my friend!’ Wow. I guess the good thing is that those who have been ‘deleted’ cannot read such a cold-hearted statement. It as if someone has emerged from the wasteland stating, ‘half the people I knew are now dead’. Can you imagine what Stalin’s status updates would have been like: ‘Gonna send some douchebags to a gulag #lol #ihatetrotsky’. What an evil man he was. Thank the Maker that he didn’t have a twitter account.
Above: Leon Trotsky probably would have been deleted from Stalin’s friend list before being assassinated. However, he could have lived if Stalin had leaked his plans in a drunken tweet: ‘Just thought of a hilarious way to kill Trotsky #icepicktotheface#vodka’.
Maybe it’s a good thing that digital friendships are a fairly recent thing.