Sunday, October 04, 2009

Friending and Unfriending

I feel right in the midst of the Zeitgeist. In yesterday's Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor sang a very funny song about being "unfriended" on Facebook, featuring a couple of verses that went, "you don't need me / you've got Carla and Nicholas Sarkozy."

It sure spoke for me, I was unfriended this week by a fellow blogger. The curious thing is that I had stopped following her blog -- one of those navel-gazing white-girl blogs in which all comments coo "you're awesome" -- some time ago.

Then she "friended" me some days ago. You know, click, click, "wanna be my friend"? (For a funny take, see Are You F*cking Kidding Me? (Facebook Song) on You Tube.)

Now, if you want to know my opinions about friendship go to my post Misanthropy and Friendship (one of the things I love about this medium is that one can slowly build an easily cross-indexed "canon" of ideas). Friendship is close to love, as the Quakers well knew, even though that's not how most people live.

The average experience in North America since the settlers is of friendships made on a handshake and a prayer, without commonality or shared experience or anything else before the arm is extended in peace.

Remember declaring someone or being declared "best friend" on the school yard? That's more or less the experience being summoned to mind on Facebook and similar social sites.

"Unfriending" -- click, click, I don't like you any more -- is just as childish.

In my case, it was done just to shut me up.The unfriender belongs to that generation that was told "good job!" far too many times; as many of her peers, she accepts only congratulations.

That's been my perennial complaint about "cybercommunities" and cybercourting. There's a deceptive sense of immediacy: since we share an easy and common interface, we must be in this together, no? The ego barriers collapse into cybersex, or at least a romance, because "at last, someone understands me" (at least until the computer is turned off).

There's no person to deal with, really. Only a bunch of keys, a mouse and our own imagination.

So, my fair unfriender, take your friending and unfriending: I won't be your groupie. You don't want discussion of ideas, you want a cheap ego-boost. That's fine. Just call it what it is.


thailandchani said...

I know exactly what you are talking about! I got "unfriended" by two people last week and realized that I didn't even know who they are! For me, the whole Facebook thing is very casual, kind of like the watercooler. Sort of a "how ya doin'" where no one waits for the answer.

In general, Facebook (etc) is all rather shallow and meaningless in the long run.

I do know who you are talking about though.. and that person never showed any interest in being my Facebook friend at all. Should I be upset?



Andy said...

Facebook is very shallow and meaningless - except if you really want to keep in contact with old friends (and I mean real friends) who don't live near you or for kids (saves the cot of a phone call and is more like the old youth centres, I suppose).

I was 'friends' with quite a few people who were friends (actually colleagues) of my ex-partner. When we split, I 'unfriended' them, not because I didn't like them nor to get at my ex but simply because they weren't actually friends of mine at all and I see no point in having friends that aren't!