Facebook friends

This is not my obsession with semantics but a mere observation based on experiences. I have been on Facebook for a number of years and like many others have gone through a whirlwind romance with Facebook which at the best of times has been a love-hate relationship that has now been on the rocks for a while now. Facebook has clearly changed what we mean by friends. A friend on Facebook could be someone you have had very fleeting contact with or even none with. And to realign our expectations, we need to understand this.

As I glance at my friends’ list, I realize that almost 60%-70% are those I have only met virtually or have met them socially maybe once or twice. That means that we actually know each other through our social updates or blogs and in essence very little. We actually have had negligible real-world contact. We haven’t grown in a relationship where we have understood each other’s flaws and good qualities and accepted them. We gravitated towards each other because we may have enjoyed something we wrote or an update or article we shared or interacted in one of the FB groups. As trivial as that may sound, this is the reason why we friend someone on Facebook these days; sometimes only because they may have a bunch of mutual friends.

I have had a few unsavory incidents with ‘friends’ on Facebook that led me to some introspection. Facebook for one is much more personal than say twitter. On twitter everything is public hence in a way when I post on twitter, I am conscious of the fact that anyone, anywhere can read it. But on Facebook, you have the option of not interacting with the public at large. Hence you have your friends, a cozy cocoon where you feel free to showcase your best and your worst. Therein, lies the problem. Many times the banter, craziness and strong opinions can really rub people the wrong way, the people who don’t really know the complete you.

The honeymoon period lasts for as long as we continue to like and support each other’s updates/points of view. We hit a bad patch when we actually share or opine on something that may not go down well with the thoughts of others. I have seen pitched battles unfold on comments on status updates. Sometimes complete strangers go after each other with a hatred which would be almost impossible to comprehend in real life. Does the anonymity make us lose control or make us callous? Are we all forgetting our good manners because we have a tool that lets us put out anything we wish to? And then there is the problem of the ‘sane’ voices – the politically correct ones, those who want to be seen saying the right things. This is what drives many of us. We actually believe that our voice/view is sane and must be told while the others are obviously ‘insane’ or the word of the season — intolerant. Hence personal equations increasingly spiral downwards as we go after each other. We see someone we liked show their weird side and things start heading downhill. Initial discomfort may lead to dislike and then aversion. Unfollow option is wielded, sometimes Restricting or even unfriending and as I had to do for one person, blocking too.

Let’s face it. We are adults with fragile egos and loud mouths. While we talk of respecting freedom of speech or expression, it is in reality only restricted to our own views. And that is where the actual problem lies. Our egos are huge and since we were never really connected beyond the superficial, it is not difficult to unfriend and move on. Of course, that is not to say that it does not hurt. Of course, we smart when we see someone going berserk with rude comments or behind our backs to friends. But, I guess it is all part of belonging to the circus called social media and we do get over it. The crux of the matter is that we actually have expectations that we have from ‘real’ friends and are disappointed when those are not fulfilled. Things like being supported, liked and respected are on top of the list.

Suddenly grappling with questions and my own lack of judgment about people I was naïve enough to trust and share my life with, I feel an aversion to the medium and how it is capable of playing havoc with my emotions. Of course, a handful of people who are my friends, real friends (some of them I haven’t yet met), I can see that I am quite understanding and patient with. Even a difference of opinion is shrugged off because there is a real bond, real affection there. But this number is really low.

A little late in the day, I have realized not to have too many expectations or to sort of lay claim to people who perhaps are just being nice to me virtually. I am aware that it does not take long for that nicety to turn into something unpleasant. With this understanding, I am now very careful before adding people to my friends’  list.

It is the classic, many times bitten now shy syndrome.

And also knowing that on Facebook we don’t have many friends but acquaintances we enjoy talking to and engaging with on a warm, sunny day. The bitter, cold times are when we turn to our real friends and family as we should.

Do share your experience with Facebook friends in the comments.

Pic courtesy: Master isolated images at Freedigitalphotos.net.



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69 Thoughts on “Why your Facebook friends are not your friends!

  1. That’s true Rachna..There are so many friends in my Facebook whom I haven’t met or have met just once or twice in some social gathering.. yet I consider mine a personal account and often forget a large percentage of the ppl in my friends list who doesn’t know the real me while I post updates..
    and yes it could be dangerous too at times as we tend to post our kids pics and many of the personal posts on our FB account forgetting the fact we have ppl watching our updates..

    • That was quick, Bilna. I totally agree. We all get carried away forgetting how much of ourselves we are putting out there to strangers. Oh yes, pictures too. And I am surprised to see how many pictures and contentious updates are actually public. Imagine the scare of that?

  2. Oh Rachna, PERFECT!!! In every way, just, yes. I believe FB is responsible for ruining many relationships. Like you said, many times we don’t really know a person in all their complexity so we begin to dislike them as we see them post something we may not agree with. In a real life situation with a close friend or a family member, you would not feel this aversion (if you valued the relationship) because you know the person more fully and are more willing to accept them for who they truly are and who you know them to be.

    This not fully knowing another person is the heart of the issue. You can’t truly know someone through Facebook. It can’t be what we base our “knowledge” of another person on. To look at a person through the lense of FB is truly limiting.

    May I quote myself here??:)
    “Facebook can be and often is a valuable method of communication. It is important to remember that it is highly subjective and offers only a limited window into someone else’s life. Not all people post everything they do, attend, are busy with, etc. here and we must remember that just because it isn’t posted here doesn’t mean that a full, rich and active life isn’t happening!:) Equally important to remember that we never know all that is going on in another persons life, there is always more we don’t know. So to make an absolute judgement of a person based only on hearsay, gossip, or what you read on Facebook or even what you witness briefly with your own eyes is not loving or compassionate. And it certainly isn’t accurate or true!:) We are full people of worth and value and complexity. Lives can not be neatly summed up in a status or defined (perhaps dismissed?) by what one thinks they know of another. Start from scratch. Give the benefit of the doubt. Think the best of others or don’t think of them at all.”

    I wrote that status a couple years ago and so believe it still. 🙂

    Great post!!

    • Is that the reason why you keep changing your FB profiles, activating, deactivating? Your comment in a way completed my post. Absolutely, you understand the medium really well. Being a blogger, I added all and sundry, you know in the early rushes of love of social media. Then paid with a few later.

  3. I have to agree. Yes. There are quite a few in my friends list I added just because I knew them through their blogs or writing. I have been at both ends of the spectrum, I guess. I’d have hurt a couple of friends, and I’ve been hurt by a few too (with the reason for the hurt not being my preferences or such).

    One such incident made me to look at the profile and realize I had added friends from school, college, family and also those who I loved to read and had interacted in blogging and such to one profile, and that was what had come to be my undoing in a way. So I had to delete the FB profile and make two others. I do not add anyone without thought now, and I’ve sent requests mostly to only those who I have been interacting with properly, or have met in real life too.

    • I guess we all have been at both ends of the spectrum. I have hurt some too. At the end of the day, we all are trying to save our sanity. I can understand why you deleted your profile and started anew. Makes sense, time consuming though it may be. I have seen a few friends do the same. I guess, the crux of the matter is that one must not really treat this as a platform to have friends. The friends we make are actually bonuses. Thanks for reading and sharing your views, Vinay.

  4. You already know you mirror my thoughts on this subject, so I was nodding along all the while 🙂 It’s already rather overwhelming for me to manage my ‘friend’ list. I know people off FB from my childhood, college who turn into weird people compelled to prove a point when they come on FB. I KNOW they are not like that in person so it is easier to blow past it.

    But the ones I meet online and only online? Well, I have to take what they say at face value because I have not met them in person to know otherwise. Which is probably why we must think long and hard before we post stuff on Facebook. Given the current trend to lash out/be intolerant of anything anyone says, it pays to be cautious on what we post. I cull people on twitter without any problems. On facebook though, it’s more personal somehow and people get offended if I remove them, so still trying to work out a balance here, as my last status update reflected.

    All that said, you are among the few Facebook friends I am truly glad to have found/converted into a good offline friend as well. So there’s something to be said for this medium 🙂

    • Yes, it is more personal on FB and a problem if you actually unfriend someone. It is taken more personally, such is the nature of the medium. I guess the mistake I did was to get emotionally involved. I am cutting back both in the updates I post and in taking what others’ post in my stride but I have a really long way to go. Oh absolutely, this is not to deny the fantastic friends I have discovered through blog and FB including you. But you and I know that it is because we do communicate offline. I guess that is the essence of this post. Thanks for reading and for validating my thoughts. It is very comforting.

  5. That’s why I am not posting as many photos as I used to do. Facebook is not a private platform. There are so many in my friends list from my school days who I haven’t interacted with online or during school days. And the ex-colleagues, why should we add them in FB when we don’t work together or don’t share a friendship in the real world? When the number of mutual friends increases the obligation to add a friend request increases. I find more common elements and interactions with blogger friends, so at least Facebook gets a bonus point there. 🙂 Enjoyed your write up, Rachna, thanks to Facebook. 🙂

    • You know, Vinitha, I have struggled with the picture bit too. As a matter of fact, these days I refrain from posting personal pictures on my blog too. With some people I do like sharing pictures and therein lies the dilemmas. Colleagues are a big no-no. I have added old college and school mates and then removed some I’ve never interacted with. It’s a continuous process. Oh yes, it is enjoyable to interact with bloggers and we have found some genuine friends too from the virtual friends yet we all need to be careful to not expect everyone to toe that line. Thanks for reading, Vinitha.

  6. I think you already know what I feel about social media and even blogs. As you say, it is more personal and therefore I baulk from even sharing pictures of myself, leave alone my family! Remember how many times I have voiced my concern about even you putting up the kids’ pics on your blog? Well, I am old fashioned that way. And yes, virtual world interactions can serve as warnings too! Be safe!

    • I actually don’t put up any personal pictures especially of the family on the blog for quite some time now. I know you have warned me many times with good reason. I think with Facebook, I do share some pictures because many friends and family members are there and I would love to share with them. The question is how many people should I share with and more importantly which people to continue interacting with.

  7. The answers for me are in your post Rachna.
    “The crux of the matter is that we actually have expectations that we have from ‘real’ friends and are disappointed when those are not fulfilled. And also knowing that on Facebook we don’t have many friends but acquaintances we enjoy talking to and engaging with on a warm, sunny day. The bitter, cold times are when we turn to our real friends and family as we should.”
    And if we do find a handful of dear friends while communicating with hundreds of virtual voices, it’s a great deal. The key, perhaps is to not raise the bar of expectations.

    • You are right. Realigning our expectations and being aware of what the medium offers is important. The bonus is in making some real friends along the way.

  8. I remember a recent status update of yours that led to a heated exchange and it really surprised me because I wasn’t expecting such strong emotions. So, I get what you’re saying that we probably don’t know our virtual ‘friends’ that much.

    I think it’s true for a majority of our real life acquaintances too. Nowadays, we’re too busy to meet people for long stretches of time. when we do meet, we are on our best behavior and say all the right things! It’s only from slipped comments (pretty much like status updates) that you can discern a person’s true nature!

    It’s sad that people do have huge egos, even if that is a sad reality for everyone.

    • Yes, sometimes the exchanges really surprise. Like you said, sometimes in real life too people pretend or are at their best behaviours. But at least there is a vibe, body language and behaviour that one can base one’s expectations on. As someone had pointed out, FB is for connections. If we just keep our expectations realistic, we wouldn’t be as surprised and disappointed.

  9. Yes.. so true.. but then I also beleive that one can choose not to be part of that circus. . I think I made a wise decision when I went off it. . 4 years ago.. because to be frank I am more of a emotional person and think from my heart most of the time. Hence my circus went up and down the trampoline when I was on fb. I would take everything true what everyone said.

    But it was fun while it lasted. .

    Friendship is something that WE make.. rest all relations are given to us..If you know what I mean..
    I respect it a lot and it hurts me very much when people do what they do..

    Moreover social media is a sleeping demon..I see so many things happen ..hence I try to not put my pics or others..and try to use only the ones that have been on public domain.

    I would strictly advice all those I care for .. (you are one of them ) to not put kids pics at all.. It is risky very risky..fb twitter and other social media they say or tell us how safe they are .. but they are not.. recently a big multinational bank was hacked.. just 2 weeks back TALK TALK a cellular company here has been hacked god knows what all has been taken.

    So I am very wary of social media.

    Moreover it’s easy for people on FB or social media to have a double face …

    • I know, Bikram. Thanks for always being there. Very early on in blogging I saw how honest you are and how you stand up for friends while others take the diplomatic way out. For emotional people like us, this is a tricky medium. I agree with you that one needs to be more careful in what we share and who we share it with.

  10. The best thing that a medium like Facebook offers is for one to judge who among those 100s of ‘friends’ one would actually like to be friends with!

    • Well said, Rickie. 🙂 I remember the conversation that you and I had on this subject and it made me reflect on the medium, my own interactions and my ‘friends’.

  11. I share a love-HATE relationship with Facebook too. It sometimes stresses me out. The amount of intolerance and negativity on Facebook simply amazes me. I wonder if people are this vicious and vindictive in real life too! Ideally our ‘Friends’ list should have people we actually like and want to interact with!!

  12. You’ve addressed the burning concerns well, Rachna. The garb of anonymity, regardless of the social media platform, makes us throw caution to the wind and behave immaturely. Not to mention the relentless exposure to mainstream media which dumbs us down (or, we’re already dumb and the media is simply playing on it – I don’t know).

    Social media has the power to make us intelligent, or make us more senile. It’s merely a facilitator, a catalyst for what we already are.

    The onus lies on us to be watchful, to choose whom to befriend on Facebook, what to put up and what to respond to.

    All my posts are public, regardless of whom I address. Just one philosophy drives them: Would my mom and her friends like this post?

    P.S. I hope I’m not one of your trivial FB contacts 😉

    • I think social media somewhere brings out our worst to the fore. In a moment of frustration or in the perpetual state of frustration that many of us are always in, we lash out easily. Yes, the onus lies on us. All public updates. That’s gutsy. Somehow I have been trolled too often to attempt that. But a sensible philosophy. About your PS: You actually need to ask? 🙂

  13. Completely relate to your post. Social media has both pros and cons. i feel we need to set our own limit and criteria about how much we need to share and communicate through this medium.
    I am very selective when it comes to adding friends on facebook, most of my friend list comprise of people I have met at least ones, rest of them are whom I came to know through blogging. I have a long list of friend request that remain pending.

    • I agree, Swati. We need to set our limits and be conscious of what we are looking for and what the medium is capable of delivering. Like I pointed, these days, I am very careful before adding on someone. To me, it is like inviting someone home. Thanks for reading.

  14. How are FB friends any different from your real life ones? We like them as long as they like us. Most of them are a bunch we have a good time with. Only a few have the prerogative to call us out on things they do not perceive as right.

    The problem with us is, we often confuse friendly with friends. And just because someone does not agree with your POV doesn’t make her a bad person. They are just being honest.

  15. For me personally, they are quite different, Purba. Yes, even in real life we have differences and differences of opinions but rarely have I seen such bitter fallouts. I don’t know about you but I give a lot of leeway to people I call friends because there is genuine affection there. On Facebook, emotions are high but the bonds are fragile. Yes, your point about being friends and just being friendly is valid. Hence, I said that perhaps the fault lies in having expectations that we have with our real friends being superimposed on casual Facebook acquaintances.

    Different POV is perfectly fine. I am not talking about that at all. That we have even with the people we live with, and it is a part of life. It is how we handle these different POVs that is interesting. Often the point of view becomes the person for us. That we don’t give any chances of redemption or quickly label people is what makes it unsavory. Honesty in my dictionary does not equate with brutality or bringing down another. Disagreeing with someone is very different from attacking them though that line is being dimmed these days as we all descend to namecalling. That done by people you once considered friends is extremely distasteful.

  16. Udayashankar PR on November 16, 2015 at 3:30 pm said:

    Correctly Said Rachna, Nowadays to an extent Whats App Group Chats also fall in the same category.

    Its just we should know where to draw a line……(even I’m trying to learn that)

    • WhatsApp is a pain. I am not really a part of any groups except two close groups. Yes, that drawing a line part is most important. Good to have you back, Udayashankar.

  17. So true, Rachna! We barely know the people on our Friends List. And it is not just limited to blogger friends or people you met in a community – seniors/juniors/ even some of your own classmates at school and college are a part of this list. I think the best way to keep things under control is by limiting our time on FB or posting whatever we feel is right. Because it is going to be seen by these not-really-friends people and you never know how they are going to interpret it. And more importantly, that opinion is more likely to cause a debate than serve a useful purpose.

    • Yes, those too. You know initially I added all my school mates and college mates enthusiastically but slowly realized that some of them I had nothing in common with. So then, finally ending up unfriending many. I would have gladly deleted my FB profile and I have considered doing it many times but only because my area of work also involves social media, hence I stay connected. Besides I do enjoy engaging with a few so why should I not continue doing that? Rest is a trial and error process. Thanks for always being there.

  18. The problem lies in the fact that we have expectations:) It is true that many FB friendships occur due sharing of some mutual interests but these can never be all the shared interests, thus exercising caution is helpful!

  19. I treat Facebook as my place to interact with strangers. My interactions with friends are mostly through phone calls and real life meetings. But yes, we can’t deny the power of social media to kindle a debate these days. I find that pathetic. Much ado about nothing!

  20. I accept almost every friend request that I get, except when it seems like a spammer. I unfollow, unfriend, block whoever gets rude. The most I expect from FB friends is good manners; they are like journey friends, who only need to be pleasant. I have no more expectations from them. If they fail that expectation, I just block them. True, they may be wonderful people otherwise and all that but since I am unlikely to have them in my life other than as virtual companions, the main criterion for me is whether they can be polite not whether they are honest, loyal and all the rest of it.

    Yes, any acquaintance can ripen into friendship – and it has happened with a few. These, though, I would not call FB friends; they are friends whom I happened to run across first on FB. Like I still have a friend – with whom I stayed in Pune en route Radha’s wedding – who I first met on a train journey. 🙂

  21. You mirror my thoughts on this, Rachna.

    I have gone through several phases with FB, from love and adoration to extreme dislike for the medium. As of now, I have settled for a happy medium; happy for me that is.

    My posts/updates are pretty non-confrontational, and that is very intentional, as I am trying to avoid all drama in the virtual world. But in-spite of this cautious approach, I have found myself surrounded with drama while commenting on someone else’s post. There is no escaping it really. But now, unless the question is specifically directed towards me, my mantra for all of Social Media is – Ignore-Block-Delete.

    • Yeah, me too, Shantala. I am also trying to be non-confrontational and impersonal yet controversy somehow finds me. 🙂 I guess one ought to safeguard our peace of mind first and foremost after all we don’t live with those on social media.

  22. You know, Rachna? You have hit the bull’s eye. It’s the same with everyone. I have more than 800 friends, and I hardly know 50 personally! Out of that 50, I’m not sure if I have recently met even 10! So much for friends! 😀

    But, it’s a part of life and has to be treated as such. We need to exercise some control over our urge to let the world know about everything. After all, it’s not so private as it seems.

    • I have culled my list down to 300 and yet I gave the stat of 60%-70% so yes, I can imagine what you are talking about, Rakesh. I completely agree with you. We need to exercise control by not sharing very private and personal views. I completely endorse that. Thanks for dropping by.

  23. my FB page is constantly undergoing a change…I don’t add random people, but I do add people I know only through their blogs, but if I find that over time, we share very little, I also unfriend them. I am not very active on social media and I hardly share pics,Not for the fear of something but because I’m hardly a camera friendly person (I’m so lazy, I don’t even change my profile pic!) My friend list would be the smallest I guess, there are hardly 150-160 people in it!

  24. True Rachana… I agree with what you say totally. Even I’ve had to ‘unfriend’, block some people.
    Words have energy even in the virtual world.
    So now, I have earmarked people whose posts I want to follow. And I only check my notifications. And that, too, just once everyday.

  25. Well analysed post, Rachna! Only for the past one year or two, i started really meeting my fb friends and a few photos are there in my page with them. Otherwise I don’t display my photo or my family’s anywhere in the fb…a definite ‘no’ in the blog.

    I am not a person to take unwanted criticism easily. I like to stay safe.

    Take care, Rachna.

  26. Loved this post Rachna, and I totally got where you’re coming from. Though strictly in terms of friends, I have been quite lucky to have had predominantly positive experiences, the kind of vitriol I have seen in some discussions is unparalleled and leaves a bad taste for sure! For dealing with those, there’s always Unfollow, Unfriend and Block :).

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  28. So true, particularly if you add everyone who sends a request, without knowing them in reality

  29. This is a tricky issue more so if you are a blogger because you are often inundated with friend requests. I think a good idea would be to periodically review the ‘friend’ list and pare it down. FB arguments can be vicious and hurtful.

  30. Between sane-insane-ego, I opt the unfollow button. It’s the best route. If someone is really bothering me or is merely a count, I unfriend them. I use Facebook for fun and blog promotion, and I never ever share my personal life on it. So far, it has worked for me. In the end, what you want from it, depends a lot on you.

  31. I feel the same way Rachna… I usually unfollow updates from such people or at times unfriend them….Of course, sometimes the blatant lack of respect affects me but I take that out on twitter and make a mental note of how that person really is…

  32. I go through a phase once or twice a year and delete some individuals. People I know or dont really talk to are taken off my friends list. Not because I want to make a statement or decrease my popularity anymore than it already is but just because I would rather keep it comfortable if not managable.

  33. Very true Rachna. It sometimes is a rude shock to discover people you thought were civil exhibiting very irrational behavior. I dont like rudeness and people smiting others because of differences in the way they think and the moment I spot that, I unfollow that person. Realized that I dont have the time for analyzing and unfortunately getting to know that person better, Whereas in real life, we do know of other aspects of the person and so we are more prepared to overlook one or two instances of weird behavior.

    • Yes, you are right. No point in analyzing people we hardly know and breaking our heads over it. Best would be to distance ourselves when the weirdness gets regular.

  34. Very true. These days especially, it is more about numbers, Rachna. Sure enough, the mutual friends list is enough to confirm a friend, and the next thing you know, they want you to like their page. And there ends the relationship. Most times, we never even say hello to those “friends”. With the convenient option of staying friends but not seeing one another’s updates, one wonders why even have “friends” like that.

    Yep. Hardly any friends on Facebook, except those family and friends you’ve known long before FB.

  35. Quite true! These days I think it’s all about the numbers and the vanity associated with Facebook friends and post likes. I’ve made it a practice to not accept friend requests from people I don’t actually know. I’ve opened my profile to followers, which is a better way to connect with bloggers and social acquaintances, I think.

  36. Quite true! These days I think it’s all about the numbers and the vanity associated with Facebook friends and post likes. I’ve made it a practice to not accept friend requests from people I don’t actually know. I’ve opened my profile to followers, which is a better way to connect with bloggers and social acquaintances, I think!

  37. I hear your Rachna having had a few of such experiences myself. My FB is now like very secure and private and only peeps I want to interact with or whom I trust (never mind that we are friends) are allowed to peep into my rants and pics etc.
    Facebook friends have proven to be anything but friends!!!

  38. Forget friends, Facebook is a medium that makes even our relatives behave in a strange way. My relationship with it has mainly been of hate of late because try as I may, I cannot get past the fact that known people become superficial there and start accepting it as reality.
    I did update a lot till a few years ago. After an unpleasant incident, now I’m careful what I post. Adding up friends is a more scrutinising process for me. Still care about mutual, blog and online friends but hardly any support is expected from them anyway.

Do not leave without commenting. I love a good conversation :).

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