Picture this, if Facebook were a deadly viral disease, 500 million of us would be dead, or headed for demise! According to Facebook statistics, 50% of active users log on to Facebook in any given day and in average, users spend over 700billion minutes per month on Facebook. An average user has about 150 friends.
While Facebook has connected many users to their friends, it has seemingly demeaned the true meaning of friendship at least from a conventional thought. That friendship whose fulcrum was built on understanding, presence, compassion and deep feelings for one another has been replaced with posts, pokes and picture tagging.
Truth be said, there is no question about Facebook’s transformative capacity on the socio-economic and political environment. Certainly, much more of life aspects have been impacted by social media (Facebook and Twitter in particular). The recent “Jasmine Revolution” in the Arab world has been attributed to, among other factors, the connectivity and the pace that social media provides. Positive humanitarian campaigns, social meetings, political reforms have been advanced in the social media forum. Yes, Facebook has connected us virtually, but at a cost.
The term “friend” and feasibly relationship have undergone makeover evolving into a near cultic saturnalia of communication. Contemporary information communication technology (ICT) is rapidly changing the linguistic meaning of the words it rubs shoulders with. This transformation, however, do not just happen. It is neither neutral nor incapable for it shapes our orientation to reality and how we interact with it. They, essentially, influence from a certain life views –not from a neutral locus.
Seeping into our hearts slowly, the perceptions of reality formed by what goes on in social media can now manifest on how we respond to friends and social network communities. If someone commits suicide, disappears for a while, or involved in an accident, Facebook wall, it seems, is the first place to stop at. The update therein can give leading information, consolation or reprieve. You see, we are in a culture forming process with our worldview entirely between the anvil and the hammer – thoroughly and rapidly beaten; even the ancient Greek would fail to conceptualize the resultant contour.
Aristotle is believed to have emphasizing on the notion and prominence of true friendship defining it as “…a single soul dwelling in two bodies.” An old hymn titled “What a friend we have in Jesus” notes that friendship is understood to be an indwelling phenomenon -beyond the physical or presence. Addressing the multitude, Jesus of Nazareth said, “…I have called you friends.” Prior to that, he told them, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” The worth of the Facebook understanding of a friend is nowhere near this.
And you probably have met a friend who angrily questioned your loyalty. “…friend! What a friends, you are not even my friend of Facebook!” or “… we better be friends on Facebook or I lose you out.” The other day I was asked why I never poked back! “I poked you and you can’t even poke back mmh?” She literally yelled.
Regrettably, a few of us are even aware that nothing that goes on Facebook is neutral. The entire phenomenon is transformative – to the heart even before exploding to say, political revolution. Our new cultures have been cut out for us… or better said, yet again, we are forming new-fangled cultures with new words and perceptions embedded on them.
I suggest you watch the movie The Social Network if you haven’t yet. Here, you see a rather garish use of the term friend where the relationship in the name of connectivity becomes a mere tool for pragmatism – keeping people busy, going, chatting, logging and of course use their time. I didn’t say misuse their time… did I? You see, this thing called social network connectivity is connecting friends but disconnecting friendship. Here friends are not numbers neither are they economic units in highly commodified cultures.
But how authentic can the new cultures be? They are forming us, define our lives, and determine our relationships and communities. The pressure that social media cultures come with, the attenuation of the fundamental human relational blocks either positive or negative, I argue, compels us to engage them. Do not mistake me, I am conscious of the positive impact of social impact and you know what? I am not gonna quit “fb” yet.
But ask me of my aspiration? That the forum and cultures it manufactures may be redeemed. That my Facebook friends will not just be a casual “add and drop” list of names and mug shots. I desire friendship of commitment, responsibility, empathy, and accountability. I believe, despite the even bigger question of how to do that, that I got a mandate.
Meanwhile, I better remind you that you stand accused if you never responded to a friend’s request… it doesn’t matter whether you last met in a kindergarten or elementary three. And you have to poke back, comment on postings and pictures. Yes, if you be a good friend… according to the new order – Facebook.