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OPINION: The Folly and Vanity of Social Media “Friendship”


By Akintokunbo A Adejumo

“What is a friend? A single soul dwelling in two bodies.” This quote is attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who wrote extensively about the notion and importance of true friendship as a determinant of “meaningful” living. In Psychology, “a meaningful life is a broad term encompassing a varied number of definitions having to do with the pursuit of life satisfaction. Meaning can be defined as the connection linking two presumably independent entities together”. (Wikipaedia)

The notion of “friend,” of course, is used rather loosely in the online world of Facebook. Alex Pattakos, in his article, “The Meaning of Friendship in a Social Networked World” asked “What is happening to true friendship? Is it dying away? Or are the various social media “platforms” such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn simply redefining or transforming our modern-day notion of friendship? If so, what are the implications for life as we know it on this planet? Will we be happier? Will it promote the kind of meaningful existence that Aristotle was seeking and advocating?”

In the days before social media , we were likely to get twenty or thirty phone calls per day and forty or fifty emails, excluding hundreds of spams, of course; now we’ve traded the telephone for other connection points (I only get 2-3 landline telephone calls per day, and if I get more, they are likely to be my creditors asking for their money back or salespeople trying to sell one thing or the other to me), but now, I interact mostly via social media with friends, family, colleagues, and even people I don’t even know.

The number of “messaging inboxes” we have is overwhelming: email (I have three accounts), Twitter, MySpace, Plaxo, Facebook, Facebook messages and chats, LinkedIn and its messages, Google + messages, blog remarks, BlackBerry Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, imo, Skype, text messages, Instagram, phone, voice mail, and several topically or geographically specific forums, groups and social networks. That’s a lot of relationship.

How do we justify this? We do it because we believe that more relationships provide more opportunity. The fact is, social media has made a big world become smaller. That is one usefulness of it. Why, politicians all over the world have made use, and continue to make use, of social media to campaign and win elections. President Obama was most notable. Businesses and organisations now use it to sell their services and goods. Friends and long-lost family use it to connect and reconnect.

So now, about my personal predicament! Come to think of it, do I need 5000 friends on Facebook, social media or no social media?  I had reached 5000 limit over four years ago. So I opened another account, me being a vain man. I quickly closed the second account down after a year or two, when I realised my folly and vanity.

So how many of the 5000 friends do I really interact with or need? Even in real life, do we have that many “friends”? Acquaintances, work and business colleagues, people we meet casually once or twice, maybe, but not friends; and how large can one’s extended family be to net you 5000 of them? If you are a politician, or you have your own “blog-site”, those following you are not your friends.

The first thing I do in the morning is check Facebook’s Birthday Calendar and wish all my friends and family, whose birthdays come up, Happy Birthday wishes individually. This takes me up to one hour sometimes, depending on how many friends and family are having their birthdays on that day.

It was then I devised a new way of spotting inactive and/or unconcerned friends. Just do the “See Friendship” and this will give you an indication of how a friend has been interactive with you.

When I do this, I discover those who I post birthday wishes and other greetings to over the course of being friends on Facebook; friends who never acknowledge your compliments, prayers and well-wishes, and/or friends who never send you any compliments, well-wishes and prayers. Nor interact with you in any way since you became friends. There are also friends with absolutely nothing on their Profile, and no Profile or other pictures, or with fake names and nicknames, making them anonymous and a risk or hazard of being friends with – they know about you, but you know nothing of them. Then there are friends who want you to comment or Like their posts, but will never comment or Like your own posts. Friendship goes both ways – give and take. Friends who never greet you even when you greet them; are those really “friends”? Maybe Facebook should change that term – Friend.

So why do I do it? Do I need to do it? It is has become my nature. How would I not wish my friend Happy Birthday, and why would a supposed friend not wish me Happy Birthday? I don’t understand.

I suppose it is the Human Engineering trait in me, my love of people, making friends and enjoying it.

But now, with great relish and no regrets, I am daily reducing the numbers of friends I have on Facebook. I don’t block them, I just unfriend them. I am aiming to have as few as 1000 very good friends in 2016.

We don’t need 5000 friends; we need a few quality and reliable friends, who appreciate us as we appreciate them; who add value to our lives as we think we do them, and who are responsive to us. They don’t even need to share our views and criticisms on politics, religion, life, culture, tradition, etc. In fact, for me, I want them to be critical of my views, if they feel so, because I will also learn from them. I don’t have a monopoly of knowledge or ideas. I am human, so I can be wrong, or uninformed or ignorant of issues. A man, who does not make a mistake, they say, does not make anything. Correct me if I am wrong.

I have made some really good friends on Facebook since in I joined around 2008 or so. I have met several friends personally only after we have met on Facebook, and we have become great real friends.  There are some friends, males and females, who, despite having never met face to face, are like we have been friends for ages that I trust and they trust me; we chat and call on the phone, WhatsApp, Skype and other interactive communicative media.  I will still meet more of them in future.

I will continue to take a knife to my “Friends List” until I am satisfied with the quality and quantity of friends and family that I have. I don’t need 5000 Facebook friends – Quality, NOT Quantity.

To ALL my social media friends and family: In everything there must be a season, a time to come and a time to go, I pray that this New Year 2016 brings to you and your family happiness and joy forever and ever. Amen.

By Akintokunbo A Adejumo (akinadejum@aol.com)


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