Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Facebook Follies

In a recent article from, "Facebook, the Mean Girls and Me," Taffy Brodesser-Akner takes on Facebook and the way that via the social networking megalith, she has rekindled relationships with various girls who she had been friends with until junior high school, when they all turned nasty and bullied her. The article becomes a place for the writer to air this laundry and wonder about the worth of revisiting past people and times through new profile pics, current photo albums and status updates.

I wasn't bullied in school (except on rare occasion), and was generally popular, but I do have my own doubts about Facebook and its authenticity. On Facebook I have been requested as a "friend" by a good number of my high school classmates from 30 years back. What I have found is that though I always answer these requests by "accepting" and then writing a brief and friendly "you attitude-focused" letter, I have quite often received no response.

When I do receive responses, I have always written a message follow up, praising the writer for whatever accolades they have received or grandchildren they've been rearing, asking relevant questions, and trying to dig a bit deeper into that great divide that has left us well on in the latter stages of life. That's when the wall of silence really appears.

I'd estimate that nearly 75% of those new (old) "friends" never write again, not even when I ask them explicit questions or make comments on their photo albums. Never again.

Which certainly does beg the question: What have I done to create such a situation?

Or is it them and not me?

Ultimately, the question may be, what is the point in all of this?

Granted, I have been able to reconnect in an exciting way with some friends from past eras whom I really had wanted to keep contact with all along but simply had lost in the shuffle. An e-rendezvous with any one these folks is rewarding. But then there is that other mass of humanity who just sit warehoused in my growing friend list.

Now I wonder what to do: Should I conduct a Stalinistic purge, or let the pile of photos and profiles accumulate?


brent hamilton blackstone said...
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Wen Jun said...

Hi Brad,

Great post! It makes for an interesting read as it covers a topic that is extremely relevant in today's context.

Since examinations are over and I have a little free time on my hands, let me share my self-invented theory: humans have a "friend limit". To remain as meaningful friends, everyone needs to commit some time towards maintaining the relationship.

In our hectic world today, who has enough free time to continually nurture each and every friendship? Hence, we all have our own "friend limit" which is dependent upon each individual's available free time and skill at nurturing friendships.

From my point of view, I believe your friends' behaviour is due to them exhausting their "friend limit", since you have clearly made the effort to reconnect with them and have been otherwise inexplicably rebuffed.

Also, to answer your final rhetorical question, if I were you, and the friendships are important enough, I would ride it out and hope my friends' "friend limit" increases in the meantime or a vacancy to fill in their existing pool of friends. On the flip side, if these friendships are unlikely to be resurrected for whatever reason, I would then simply delete these friends.

Of course, do take my comment with a pinch of salt, as I am not a Facebook user. Therefore, I probably do not fully comprehend the dilemma you face.

Regina said...

I have a similar experience. I have a lot of friends who are totally different from me, or that I have become totally different from their projection based on my past self. Talking with them is almost like pulling teeth.

High school and grade school classmates from the Philippines are eager to reconnect with me though.

I have 600 friends on Facebook and I am only real friends with less than 6 there. It's really just a stalking platform for some :(

Huahua said...

Hi Brad,

This is an interesting topic to talk about. I once mentioned that I don't usually go to facebook, this is one of the reasons (other than there's nothing much to do in fb).

I don't accept friends that I don't know or not close with. Personally, I think they aren't looking for long lost friends to rekindle friendship. So, I didn't make the effort going around looking for people I once know.

Perhaps the only advantage in accepting more "friends" is that you can earn more money in the playfish games. :x

I feel so bad that I didn't reply your message in fb, when you mentioned that there's no response from your friends. D:

I don't frequently go fb as frequently as MSN. Sorry if you feel disappointed that I didn't reply your message. >_<

- yuanhua -

Alza club said...
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Anonymous said...

I have to say facebook is a rather superficial tool to networking at least for those friends that have long lost contact with.

Valarie said...

Hi Brad,

You, are perhaps, one of the million people experiencing this situation. I did not experience being bullied, though, but I do have a whole list of Facebook 'friends' who I probably spoke to - at most - 2 sentences for my whole life. There were some who I know them by face, but not by name! I could have rejected them, as what I do to the absolute strangers, but somehow I feel obliged accepting them as my 'friends'. But, of course... I did delete some of them off my list at the end of the day.

C_and_A said...

Hi Brad,

I find it indeed unfortunately too that your "friends" have failed to respond to your messages on Facebook, but I suspect that a good number could be due to ignorance - I have a great many friends who do not know where the inbox for the Facebook is located.

That aside, I do feel that Facebook is a great tool for us to reconnect with our friends and acquaintances, though perhaps not via messages. I cannot speak for others, but I do keep tabs on my wall for photos albums and status updates posted by my friends, and find that I could somewhat be updated about what they have been involved in and how they are doing. There are also times when I find out from Facebook that some of my friends are involved in things similar to what I'm involved in, which then leads to interest in further correspondence.

Moving to your further point, I do agree that there is a rather unfortunate number of people "warehoused" in our list of friends, but I suppose we cannot expect everyone to be enthusiastic Facebook-ers. However, it is of my opinion that we should allow them to remain warehoused, for perhaps someday they could find some free time to log on, and reconnect with us in a manner we wouldn't expect.

Brad Blackstone said...

Insightful thoughts, Clement. Thanks for taking the time to read and leave comments.

Jolene said...

Hi Brad,

With regards to the “friends” that you have tried to rekindle the friendship with - nothing personal - but I feel that it may be because after having lost contact for so long (Esp if it’s 30 years), they may not feel comfortable revealing about their personal lives again. After having read this blog post, I actually asked a few of my friends about their response towards such a situation – where they have lost contact with a friend and if they would feel comfortable talking to the person again after a lapse of time. Many would not mind sharing casual stuffs, but any deeper into their personal lives would make them uncomfortable, especially if they do not know if their long lost “friend” has changed in any way. I personally feel the same way too. It is not that we do not trust the person at the other end of the line, but perhaps, it is just a defensive mechanism that pops up when we meet someone we have not talked to for a long time.

This issue has also reminded me of an incident not too long ago. I had felt uncomfortable when I met up with a friend whom I had lost contact with. I realised that when we were catching up, I did not dare prompt much into her life, or rather, I was very careful and felt somewhat uncomfortable, compared to the good old times. I was afraid of asking the wrong questions, touching on sensitive issues, appearing too “kay-poh”, after how we had somehow drifted apart (our mutual friends had actually told me about the problems she faced during those years but she had never brought it up personally to me). She, likewise, did not feel very comfortable when other friends brought up certain questions about how she was doing – her responses to most questions were simply “like that lor”.

So, perhaps this could be the story at the other end of the line. But again, I guess I cannot say this applies to everyone. Some may feel at ease speaking to their long lost friends, especially if it is someone whom they have so much wanted to meet again, so I guess to each case, there is a different story.

Wei Ying said...
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Wei Ying said...

Hi Brad,

I guess it is your so-called "friends" who have resulted in this awkward situation. Like what we always say, it takes two hands to clap. This applies the same to friendships. Both parties must take initiatives and put in efforts to make a friendship last long.

From what you have said, I think you have already taken the first step in rekindling a long-lost friendship, by sending emails of regards to show him/her that you still remember and care for them.
Whether this friendship can be salvaged, ultimately, it depends on your friend's next move. If she/he chooses not to reply you, then I guess you shouldn't be feeling bad about it.

I believe that there are some reasons to why your "friends" choose not to reply your email. Perhaps like what Jolene has mentioned, since you and your 'friends' have not been contacting each other for more than 30 years, perhaps they feel awkward in revealing their personal life to you. Or I guess they expect you to update yourself with all the relevant information that you wish to know through their photo albums? Afterall, a picture paints more than a thousand words. Another possibility will be that they are not a hardcore user of Facebook. Hence they may miss out your emails.

Regarding to the friend list issue, I feel that different people have different opinions towards these two words ' Add Friend'. Some people wish to stay connected to their old friends, hence they choose to add/accept them as friends. Others choose to add/ accept strangers or acquaintances as their 'friends', because they want to create these false impressions that they are sociable and popular among friends.

Hm.. Just my two cents worth.

Brad Blackstone said...

Thanks to everyone for responding. Since Facebook has become so ubiquitous, the issues I discuss in this post have generated lots of interesting, insightful feedback and some darn good advice. I guess the responsibility lies with me. I should know by now what some of you suggest, that real friendship lies far beyond the e-blurbs, status reports and photo albums. Facebook is just that, a networking site. Leave it at that.

January Carson said...

Hey Brad,

I'm in favor of the draconian purging!!!

Facebook is too personal a technology to have non-responders in my friends list. I want to communicate with a group of close personal friends on a daily basis. The situation you describe would begin to make me self conscious about my posts.

I like what your other poster said about their being a "friend limit." Dump these non-responders and focus your attention on building relationships in Facebook with people who use the technology in the same way you do!

P.S. I realy dislike "lurkers" too - people that don't post themselves, don't respond to your posts, but read everything in detail. It's too easy to forget they are out there.


Brad Blackstone said...

Thanks, January, for your advice. It may be a bit late, but let the purge begin!

January Carson said...

Never too late to mold technology to a higher purpose! Besides, I have become unstuck in time.