I wanna be your friend

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.


About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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7 Responses to I wanna be your friend

  1. cbramhall says:

    Nothing missing as far as I can see, but then I work on the same principles. It always surprises me *who* I become friendly with, either online or in the big room with the (occasionally) blue ceiling known as Real Life, so I cannot predict beforehand who will become considered a friend.

    However, therein lies the joy and serendipity of the journey and the opportunities new friends offer to discover previously undiscovered sides of ourselves.

    • SilverTiger says:

      As far as I can see, the “journey” usually starts and ends by the other person “collecting” you as a “friend” and continues by them ignoring you thereafter.

      My current plan is to accept people on trial, as it were, and then dump then if they fail to shape up.

  2. Ted Marcus says:

    Yes, “friend” seems to have a acquired a new meaning in the age of social networking. Language change at work. Not even King Canute can stop it.

    I joined Facebook almost exactly a year ago, mainly due to an interest in what I like to call “archeology” (born, admittedly, of boredom). It has proved the richest “dig” on the Internet, enabling me to reconnect with people who were friends (in the old-fashioned sense) decades ago in high school and college, but who drifted away through the normal human form of plate tectonics. I hadn’t seen any of them in many years, and most of them had evaded normal Google searches, but there they were.

    Occasionally there’s an exchange of longer e-mail (and even more occasionally an in-person reunion), but the “communication” with them consists of seeing and sometimes commenting on their status updates. I supposes that’s how modern-day friends interact.

    I do occasionally get friend requests from people who I barely remember, and sometimes who I don’t remember at all. My usual approach for the former is to accept the request. If they remember me and are interested enough in reconnecting with me (albeit in the inherently limited fashion of Facebook), I’ll be glad to welcome them. In the latter case, I respond by asking whether they’re actually looking for one of the impostors who have a Facebook membership under the name “Ted Marcus,” and reminding them that I’m the only genuine one.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I have no problem with accepting as friends people with whom I have some shared history. Once they are added as friends, I don’t demand any particular level of continual communication.

      My complaint is against complete strangers with whom I have never had any contact and who evince no reason for wishing to become my friend. If I do accept any such, then I do expect some sort of meaningful communication within a reasonable time and if there is none, I dump them.

  3. Em² says:

    I suppose the main trouble with the on-line blog/micro blogging world is in the rise of personal branding and the blind acquisition of ‘followers’ as part of that relentless person-as-a-brand style of thinking that really is all ultimately about pimping product.

    • SilverTiger says:

      I think you have expressed in a more focused way the fuzzy thought in the back of my mind. These collectors of “friends” are just using their names parasitically to boost their own ego or, as you say, “product”.

      Someone made herself a “friend” on Facebook the other day and since then has added more “friends”. Not once has this person interacted with me or left a comment on my blog, etc. I will give it a few more days and then, if things remain the same, dump her.

    • SilverTiger says:

      Heh heh! After writing the above, I went onto Facebook and wrote a tetchy “status” on the subject!

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