Tuesday, 16 October 2012

‘Un-friending’ Virtual Friends

Socializing and technology have been the most crucial differentiators that supported the exponential growth of the human race. The merger of these two concepts, resulting from the advent of the Internet, has revolutionized the way people interact and communicate. From chatting with your neighbor to catching up with an old friend living thousands of miles away, online socializing platforms allow users to interact from the comforts of their homes. It will not be an exaggeration to term this phenomenon, triggered by networking sites, as a Social Renaissance.

Facebook, the largest social media community in the world, has more than 500 million active users (as of October 2010). Considering this number, if Facebook were a country, it would have been the fourth largest in terms of population! The online media craze initiated by Facebook has been successfully endorsed by Twitter, YouTube and iPod apps.

Having said that, the real difference online social networking matrix brings to your life is still questionable. This is because individuals typically do not connect to everyone whom they have added to their friend list. The friend list is more about quantity than quality.

Online Social Networking – A Different World

Having a social networking account has almost become a necessity in order to express our opinions, to stay in touch with our friends or to post an alert about trivial actions during the day. But, have you ever given a serious thought to your friend list? Have you ever tried to remove a virtual friend off your list?

Last weekend, while updating my account on a social networking site, my friend list caught my attention all of a sudden. As I pondered over that, I realized that there were some friends with whom I had not had a hearty conversation for a while. These were friends who had either been sent a request to join by me or had sent me a request that I had accepted rather excitedly, thinking that I would converse with them in the future. But when I browsed through the names in my friend list, it came as a surprise to me that the number of actual friends or people with whom I had had a word recently was very small.

I felt the burden of guilt weighing on my heart for not being able to talk to other so-called friends. I say “so-called” because at that time having a friendly relationship seemed so virtual to me. The definition of virtual friends has become something different from the friends I like to hang out with.

There are so many persons like me who have a long list of such virtual friends and who, at one point of time, realize that their list has long gone beyond their intimate friends. It seemed to me that the relationships on such sites have quickly evolved from quality of friends to quantity.

I wondered why I did not eliminate such people from my friend list and why, in the first place, I was so anxious to join them when somewhere in my heart I knew that I will not talk to them except perhaps occasionally.

Obviously, not all of us kept the list so long because we all are smitten by the number mania (the more friends you have, the cooler you are). I think it’s just that we want to avoid the awkwardness of acting completely impersonal by removing people from our elaborate friend list. Just as we would get offended if someone with more than 500 friends eliminated us from their friend list.

I completely understand that selective discretion is crucial to the social networking system. However, even in this virtual environment, deleting friends without any explanation can turn out to be a jarring experience.

For me, this problem is actually too horrible to contemplate. Let’s try to post this on my page and see if any of my virtual friends can come up with a solution for this problem.

You guys get going. Try to unfriend a virtual friend from your list and please also post an alert for me if you know about how to get away from that horrible awkwardness later.

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