The meaning of the term “friend” has changed. On Facebook, we are almost as intimate with our enemies as we are our friends. We share statuses, photos and check-ins. We observe comments and tags and passing thoughts. We ultimately keep track of their day-to-day life in the same manner as we keep up-to-date with the lives of our friends, at least to the extent of our Facebook interactions. The only difference is we can’t comment on their photos or statuses or check-ins because nobody wants to be accused of Facebook stalking!
I too am a culprit. I have accepted friend requests from people that I don’t talk to, people that I barely know and people that I don’t even like, and when I say “don’t like” I don’t mean in an arch nemesis sort of way, rather a we-are-very-different-people-and-just-not-friends sort of way. Which is fine, nobody has to like everyone and everyone sure doesn’t have to like me. My point is, Facebook classifies these people as “friends,” but these people —the ones you would pass in a supermarket and not even give a second glance, people you don’t even talk to —they’re not friends. Not even close. Yet the term “friend” gives the impression of closeness, someone you want to spend time with and share experiences with, not someone you try to dodge at a party.
Facebook has many uses, but keeping track of people we don’t like should not be one of them. It should not be used to spy on enemies or adversaries (sure, flicking through photos of that girl you don’t like and taking note of her weight gain over the past three months can bring serious enjoyment, but trust me, it’s not healthy). The majority of us, if questioned, could make a list about someone that we claim not to be friends with solely from the information on Facebook and I am no exception. And yet, I can’t think of one good reason why I don’t clean up my friends list.
Surely, no good can come from stalking people we don’t like and really, why do I care what they are up to? It is a question I can’t answer. There is some illogical curiosity that draws me to their pages. It doesn’t make sense that we want to befriend someone who, in the real world, when face-to-face, we would not classify as a friend on any level. Even without this weird interest in the life of your enemy, why would you delete people? It’s all about the friend count, right? Wow, 842 friends. So what if you don’t like 736 of them?