It was as though we had been on a trip and all come back to tell each other where we’d been. A bunch of 50-somethings in a constant state of astonishment that we had become our parents. I mean, when I was a kid watching American Bandstand, I’d watch the line of kids (“Jim Smith, 17,” Peggy Sue Jones, 18″) and think “Eight-TEEN???” It seemed beyond comprehension that anyone could be that old. My parents didn’t count because they were a different species.
So here we were on Facebook. The mistake I made was thinking of these people as “friends,” but in my own defense (that would be me defending me against me), there were a few things pushing me in that direction. One was the fact that we used to be friends. Okay, maybe it was before we knew who we were, had been molded into anything at all, or had any life experience; but hey. To the extent that you can be friends in that condition, we were friends. Next was Facebook’s use of the word “Friend.” This wouldn’t be the first time I had used a word differently than anyone else in the universe uses it, but because of the temptation to relive some moments in my past, I was sucked in. Now I think that if I’d wanted to do that, I should have just devoured a pack of pink Sno-Balls and have done with it. I would have been way less disappointed.
Fairly soon it turned into grandma- and grandpa-ville. Which I found nauseating. Posting sonograms, the whole 9 yards. I told one grandma-to-be who had posted a sono-pic of her not-yet-grandson that thought I should post a photo of my pancreas & she went away all hurt. But really. Then there were the Positive Thinkers and the Rabid Born-Again Christians and the one who was gobbling up “Friends,” at a rate of about 50 per day, like it was some sort of contest, or the one who routinely cheats on her taxes and told me (not a joke) “I don’t have enough money to have integrity,” which left me feeling like I was looking at an Escher print. Who on earth were these people? Was it worth being called a baby murderer because I’m pro-choice just because the person saying it used to sit behind me in geometry class? If I had been meeting all these people for the first time at a party, there were only a couple that I would have wanted to engage in even a single conversation, let alone meet for coffee.
Everyone loves to “like” you. When I told people about the photo calendars I make & sell every Christmas, the oohs and aaahs led me to believe sales would be up, if for no other reason than that, well, these were my friends. They love my photos. The calendar costs less than a dessert from one of the expensive lunches they keep posting about. This year it was especially important because at the time it was pretty nearly my only source of income. So when I posted a link to purchase one, imagine my surprise when only one person bought one, and she was not even someone I’d known in high school (see “Is There Anything I Can Do to Help?”). I was feeling quite desperate and actually pleaded with people to buy one, which post, to my horror, one person “Liked.”
That was it. It sent me right over the edge. This was right after someone who said she thought of me as a “sister” asked “How Much?” when I asked if she wanted to buy one of my calendars. I told her my real sister would have asked “How many?” not “How much. I got off Facebook in a hurry and have no interest in seeing or hearing from those people again, and I’m only sorry I didn’t just leave most of them in the realm of “fond memory.” I started un-friending for all I was worth until my page was a rubble & finally just deleted my account. Good riddance.
But there is still the problem of the definition of “Friend.” Now that there’s Facebook, you have to qualify what you mean by “Friend.” And sister. You have to qualify that, too. I think it boils down to “The regular definition of [fill in] minus all responsibility, caring or concern expressed in a tangible way, or loyalty.” Now I ask you: What is the point?
The problem with Facebook’s having chosen the word “friend” to represent this shallow bastardization thereof is that people have actually started believing it. That this is what real friends are and do. Do we now have to come up with a different word for “Real Friend,” or do we have to qualify everything that exists in the non-virtual world? You don’t need to bring a sick friend (Real Friend) a cup of soup, because there is some app that sends a virtual cup of soup for you. The work of friendship is gone, and the feelings of support and care, and the taste of chicken soup, are gone as well.