Robert Hsu | Facebook: friendship poison
The Casual Observer | Facebook is changing the way we see friendships
September 23, 2011, 12:25 am·
The Casual Observer
If you knew the number of friends I had on Facebook, you’d probably think that I am more popular than Regina George.
Have you ever met someone at a party for a few minutes and then proceeded to add him or her on Facebook hours later? I have.
Have you ever met people at a summer camp and then promised to “keep in touch” with them while tears streamed down your face, only to turn to Facebook to maintain your “friendship” later? I have.
Sometimes as I Facebook-stalk and casually observe my news feed, I notice people having full conversations via wall posts, and I wonder if such an emotionless, sterile online interaction really does anything to contribute to two peoples’ friendship. As Facebook becomes an integral (and sometimes addictive) part of our lives, our society will have to confront a growing problem — people are beginning to see Facebook as an accurate representation of and effective alternative to reality.
Although Facebook can be very useful for keeping track of people you do not see very often, this creates the false illusion that being Facebook friends means that a friendship exists in real life.
College freshman Laura Anthony has realized through using Facebook to meet future Penn classmates that it is better to get to know someone first in reality and then use Facebook as a supplement to that because people can be completely different from what they seem like online.
What is it that makes friendship such an indestructible bond? It is emotion. Oddly, this also happens to be a friendship’s Achilles’ heel. Friendships are borne out of an emotional connection that occurs between two people in real life and (contrary to what many people believe) that is how it needs to be maintained — in real life. The people whom we befriend do not make an impression on our lives because of what they say or do to us; it is because of how they make us feel.
We may tell a countless number of invisible people around us, “Hi, how are you!” every day, but it is how our friends make us feel during that greeting that makes them special. Humans are naturally emotional creatures, and when the transmission of emotion between two people becomes inhibited, the friendship begins to weaken quickly.
This is the problem with Facebook — and all technology. It zaps human interaction of all emotion and expression. Sure, an emoticon may help convey the point you are trying to make, but it doesn’t provoke a reaction within the person reading it. Facebook is being treated as a form of reality, when it is absolutely not. The emotional transmission between two people during a conversation is unique.
On Facebook, an interaction can be completely faked or copy and pasted over and over until it means less than the generic “Good luck!” we wish people as they embark on a challenge. It is so convenient that Facebook reminds us of our “friends’” birthdays, but I wonder if people truly mean what they say when they copy and paste “Happy birthday!” to all their friends who have birthdays for a particular day. Facebook has made us forget the meaning behind what we say and things we once said in person.
Gabriella Meltzer, a College freshman, agrees with this assertion: “Friendships are so fake on Facebook. It’s so easy to say ‘I miss you!’ on Facebook, and that definitely shows how Facebook has made us lazy in maintaining friendships.”
Many of us may be using Facebook to keep in touch with people from high school and back home. My advice: don’t even bother trying to use Facebook. Pick up the phone and give someone a call, even if the inability to see body language makes it highly awkward. Skype with them because the emotion that can be transmitted will revive your friendship and soul. Invite them to have coffee with you during winter break, even if the four-month gap has made your friendship slightly awkward. If it really matters to you, you’ll fight for it.
Some of us may also be using Facebook to maintain relationships with people we have met casually. Send them a Facebook message and invite them to eat lunch with you. Perhaps you may be seen as a creeper, but our world needs more people who will fight to maintain friendships that matter. Facebook may be comfortable, and an extended conversation on Facebook may seem to bring you closer to someone, but that is an ephemeral connection.
I’d hate to be known as a hypocrite. So if I’ve added you on Facebook during the summer just because you were a Penn classmate, please come talk to me so we can have a connection in real life. If you’re not interested, just unfriend me.
Robert Hsu is a College and Wharton freshman from Novi, Mich. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The Casual Observer appears every other Friday.