To friend or not to friend


Every year, usually after I’ve been on holiday, I get the broom out on Facebook and sweep the cobwebs away.

You know the cobwebs I mean, the people who were initially acquaintances who had the prospect of becoming friends, but they never actually did progress that far, so they end up just hanging there on the periphery of your online friendship sphere forever and a day.

Depending on how you treat Facebook, and social media in general, you may have a 100 or even 1,000 “friends”. Some people friend all and sundry, and are quite happy to update relative strangers with their every movement – including probably their bowel movements.

Some people use Facebook to build their profile for business or creative purposes, but then sometimes realise that their real friends have become lost in the fray of an assortment of groupies and hangers-on who salivate at each of their status updates no matter how pedestrian.

In an ideal world I would have been more proactive and created a Facebook page to support this blog and my profile as a writer but I didn’t because, as you are know, I am a technophobe and let’s face it I am also just a little bit lazy. The vast majority of my Facebook friends are exactly that. They are people, some of whom I have known for decades and some for mere months, but they are all human beings I would happily have a coffee, a beer or go on a bender with.

However, my recent island holiday gave me plenty of time to reflect on lots of different things, some were helpful, some were fanciful, and some were just downright vulgar. But one thing I pondered was the nature of my new Facebook friends – I don’t mean my real friends – but the ones who I had let into my inner sanctum in a moment of weakness, madness or perhaps just blatant horniness.

So it was on return from my holiday that I realised that over the past six months not all of my Facebook friends fell into that true friend category. I acknowledged that the twists and turns of life had meant that I had accepted requests from people who I normally wouldn’t have if my life had been just a little more even of late.

Maybe it’s my generation – Generation Triple X – that makes me hesitant to share my inner most thoughts on social media. I must admit that sounds like an oxymoron, considering for the best part of 20 years I have been doing just that on the page and on this blog. But having readers who are essentially anonymous provides some level of (perhaps deluded) comfort that what truly makes me “me” is shared only with those people who I trust and admire the most.

So on my first day back from holiday, I got out that metaphorical broom and, admittedly with a tiny bit of trepidation, swept out all of those people who I knew didn’t need to be there. Now I didn’t use one of those trite calculations about who sent me a happy birthday message or who had responded to one of those ridiculous status updates which actually threatens you with eternal Facebook banishment from that particular person if you don’t post how you met them, what colour hair they have, or why you love them. No, I intrinsically knew who needed to go.

It was nothing personal and didn’t insinuate that they were dodgy (most of my real-life friends and certainly my family are dodgy – that is why I love them), unfriendly or just plain odd. Most of them, I’m sure, will never actually know that they no longer receive my irregular witty musings and hilarious anecdotes about a life well-lived. Some were the final disconnect from a relationship that ended years ago. Others had the potential to become something special until I realised that I could not compete with 20-something-year-old backpackers with boob jobs and a penchant for breaking up marriages. And others were from possibly my last, and somewhat desperate, attempt to get back into the dating game when my heart wasn’t never really in it.

It is very rare these days that I send a Facebook request to anyone new or receive one in return from someone who surprises me. So it was with a huge smile on my face, two days after clearing out my Facebook deck that I received two requests from two men who I love with all of my heart. They were not old flames or even old friends who had got lost in the ether of time. They were my 14-year-old nephew and my 69-year-old father. The requests were half-an-hour apart, so I’m guessing that the former helped the latter put together his profile. And so it was at moments like that, that Facebook reminded me about the connections that really matter.