The Furious Phase of Facebook Friendships

Rahul Jayaram teaches at the Jindal School of Liberal Arts & Humanities
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Everybody is everybody’s pal and having 500 friends is routine. But who are these strangers sitting smugly on your friends’ list?

Let’s face it. You are nobody if you’re not on Facebook these days. Absence from its blue-rimmed space is a sure-fire indication of being a loser. The great networking forces of the online world, temptations to poke into other people’s lives, the possibility of unending banter with friends and well, getting chummy with that friend’s friend’s heaving-bosom cousin, lure you into virtual voyeurism. Facebook, you’re told, connects you to the world of your friends and their friends’ lives like nothing else.

As a Facebook user, one of the things I find stultifying is the unending number of friends (500 or 1,000 is routine) people can have. I wonder who these friends are and whether a single individual can claim to know so many people? On top of that, is the upper right column of the new FB nudging you all the time to make new friends, who happen to be friends of a friend on your friends list: In FB lingo, ‘mutual friends’ prompting you to become your own pals. Ha! This is ‘friendship’ gone viral.

I wonder if this is friendship or something quite the opposite. (Well, what is friendship in any case?) Take the case of a current hit quiz on FB: ‘How well do you know person X?’ X happens to be a friend who is self-indulgent and clearly, a clown with nothing to do. So X creates his own quiz for public consumption called ‘How well do you know me?’ I’m thinking, ‘How vain can you get, loser!’ He lists ten totally moronic questions (and irritatingly politically correct too, for instance, ‘What is my favourite day?’ while I’m thinking ‘When did he get laid first?’ or ‘Have you ever got laid?’) about himself. And guess what? His pals take the quiz. And flop it! If you’re good, you get something like a 60 per cent. Like the Delhi University BA exams, getting a First Class on a FB quiz is hard work.

Another story I often hear is about men and their ex-girlfriends—and their Facebook avatars. More often than not, the babe has dumped the guy and committed ‘Facebook murder’ on him, ie blocked him from her Facebook friends list. And what does this jerk do? He begs and rants their mutual pals (who are his friends) to see what the woman has been up to. He gains access to her page through a common friend (who feels like shit) and as the pal cluelessly gazes on, the fellow follows bit by bit, his ex’s status messages. The happier those messages are, the more he wails and rants. And, in a weak moment, sends her an SMS saying something sugary, like: ‘I miss you baby. I love your new FB pic.’ And the woman is like: ‘How did you get to see my pic! I can’t believed you hacked into my account.’

Facebook may be one of the world’s biggest social networking sites, but I don’t get it. Perhaps, I should I create a quiz likewise.