For quite some time, something has been bothering me. I like to understand why people do things, especially when these things involve me, but there is one particular form of social activity that I just fail to comprehend. I’ll explain what it is in a minute and perhaps some kind soul can provide an answer.
First, let me fill in the background. Though not a very social body, I do have accounts on sites like Facebook and BlogCatalog. I am not sure why I have them but I do. And this is where the above mentioned puzzle arises.
Suppose in daily life I met someone I liked and I thought about trying to become his friend. How would I behave? Well, for a start I would ask him about himself, show interest in him and generally behave towards him in the way that friends traditionally behave.
Rightly or wrongly, I carry over that philosophy onto the online world. I would only try to make someone my online friend after discovering that I liked him, found him interesting and generally entertained amicable feelings towards him. How would I determine this predisposition to friendliness? Well, by communicating with him, of course. I fail to see how friendship can be struck up in the complete absence of communication of any kind.
Doesn’t everyone share my opinion on this? Apparently not. The first person who applied to be my “friend” on BlogCatalog did so without a word, without ever having commented on my blog or otherwise given any sign of her existence. When I looked at her account, I saw that she had already signed up 3,000 friends. Yes, you read that right: 3,000. How can anyone have 3,000 friends? It just isn’t possible.
Since then, many others have applied to be my “friend”, all employing the same silent method. When I opened an account on Facebook, the same thing occurred. To my mind, if you have never communicated with someone, then you cannot be a friend. An admirer, yes; a fan, yes; a collector of people, yes; a friend, no.
One day I posted a notice on BlogCatalog saying “If you want to be my friend, at least get in touch with me first and tell me why you want to be my friend”. You can guess how that changed things. Yep, not at all.
The other day, someone applied to be my friend on Facebook. I had no idea who he was or why he would want me as a friend. So, I sent him a message: “Why, exactly, do you want to be my friend?” Guess what the answer was? It was “Sorry, I mistook you for someone else.” Yeah, right.
I tried the same thing with another wannabe friend and got no response at all. That seems to be the usual thing, but surely, if you really want to be someone’s friend and they ask you why, you would be only too pleased to give your reasons. I would.
I can only think that “friend” online means something different from “friend” in the offline world, or that people today have forgotten (or never knew) what a friend is, or again, that people on social networking sites perhaps entertain the mistaken notion that having huge numbers of friends makes them look good. It doesn’t, at least not in my book. To my mind, it is the quality of the friendship that counts, not the number of people you have managed to enrol as fictitious “friends”.
Maybe there is something this misanthropic old tiger is missing. If so, he would be very pleased to be told what it is.