One Thousand Plus Friends On Facebook
Frenchie is inspired. Matt Kuleza, a student from Melbourne, is teaching us a lesson about friendship. Over the next three or so years he’ll have coffee with more than a thousand “friends”, and write about it on his tumblr. Frenchie says,
…take the time to slow down, meet your friends and get to know them and throw in some travel as well.
Well hear, hear. A world tour of facebook! Since reading the story I find myself scrolling through my feed, marvelling at the diversity of places represented. I’d go all the way from Brisbane to Israel to Nairobi, stopping off via India, Canada and Scotland. Score one for social media! Ready those beans!
But more than that it strikes me how impractical it is to be friends with one thousand plus people. Really, it can’t be done – unless you’re a Melbourne-based student with more time on your hands than most people (not to mention the money), and even then, it’s not sustainable forever. I mean seriously – it’s taking him several years just to have a single coffee with each of them. In the great social media epidemic that is Fear Of Missing Out, this project is the most convincing argument I’ve seen in favour of just calling the whole thing off. It’s great to connect, but to connect meaningfully over the long term, we need to narrow things down.
I have a long history of ambivalence with social media. I was roughly the last person of my generation on facebook and for years I was there in name only. Recently, I’ve been toying with it more, and I’ve decided it has its uses. Maybe my problem lay in seeing it as an imperfect mirror for face to face interactions, or perhaps a dodgy prosthesis, instead of some kind of cybernetic extension which was never meant to mimic anything natural.
Now I find I can use it to cowrite blog-based Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style stories with small groups of writers spread out across the globe and all its time zones. That’s not natural, but it’s awesome. So (facebook tells me) was my high school reunion, which played out this weekend on some other part of the globe. “We should do this every year!” said an old classmate I probably wouldn’t have recognised on the street if he hadn’t posted up a few photos. Now I’ve seen him, and I know where he is. But we won’t do it every year.
Somewhere online we’ll be out there, traceable with a few clicks and taps. But at the end of the day we’ll go on with our lives – even Matt, despite his adventures. In the meantime, I wish him great coffee, good friendships, and the best, most productive uses of online social media.