I have almost 5000 friends on Facebook who I consider to be actual friends (4,846 to be exact!)
Recently, someone mentioned to me that I shouldn’t really consider the people (or followers) on my personal Facebook page “friends.” According to them, my wall was a business. Sorry, but this is completely untrue. I honestly do consider my Facebook friends to be true friends, even if I’ve never met them in person, and probably never will.
Every single morning – weekends included – after making myself a coffee, the first thing I do is log on to Facebook, see whose birthday it is, and then wish them “HBD!” Do I know these people personally? Usually, I’ll know maybe one person in real life out of about 15 to 20 other virtual friends, whose names I definitely recognize.
Last week, I even posted on a “friend’s” wall my sincerest condolences after their hamster died. Yes, I sent out condolences to a hamster who had passed, whose owner I do not know personally, and truthfully, it did feel a little silly writing “XO” about a dead hamster. But this friend was obviously upset, and I wanted them to know I was sad to see them sad.
When asked by friends on Facebook (that I don’t know in real life) to send out prayers and positive vibes when they are sick, or have sick relatives, or are in the hospital, I will comment, “Sending love and positive vibes!” I have “loved” too many posts to count when friends post new haircuts, their cats, their children’s birthdays, their workouts, their dogs hogging their beds, the salad they are planning to eat for lunch. I wish them well on their events, anniversaries, new jobs and renovated kitchen counters. I “Lol” at their funny memes. I “love” their inspirational quotes.
I “like” or “love” or “lol” or comment on my Facebook friends’ walls, even if I don’t know them personally, because I truly do love seeing all of the new haircuts, the dogs, family vacations, and what movie they are about to watch. When a Facebook friend is sick, or their children are, I post on their wall, “Feel better soon!” Or, “Speedy recovery!” I truly do care about their health, and their families’ health, like I truly feel for them after they post about their bad day. I feel like I know them, even if I only recognize their names. And in return, I find that my Facebook friends are genuinely happy for me when something good happens, they genuinely want to help, and they cheer on not just me, but my children’s accomplishments as well. And isn’t that what friends do?
Recently, after I posted how much my son loved costumes, one of my Facebook friends private messaged me, telling me she had an entire garbage bag full of costumes her son no longer used and would I like to have them? The following morning I drove to this Facebook friend’s house to pick up the bag of costumes she had so kindly left me on her porch, even though I do not know her at all in real life. This is something a friend would do, too, right?
Then, after seeing an amazing cake creation that one of my Facebook friends had made and posted, I reached out and asked if she could make the same cake for my Dad’s 80th birthday bash. And, yes, she is making one for me! If it weren’t for these Facebook friends, I’d be buying a cake from a supermarket and my son wouldn’t have 35 (free!) new costumes. People rarely admit that they like being on social media, but I’m not one of them. I love it.
I also converse with a couple of friends who I’ve never met, but have become morning messaging Facebook buddies. The one thing we have in common is getting up super early. I look forward to our morning back and forth messages. Sometimes, it’s these virtual friends who act like my therapists, and they don’t charge me. I message with one friend regularly in the mornings, who lives in Texas. I am 99 percent certain I will never ever meet them, yet I know what they do for a living, that they adopted a daughter, and we share the same vices. I give them pep talks when they are feeling down and need to vent. That’s what friends, also do, right?
I tell my friends that they look “stunning,” or “fabulous” when they change their Facebook profile photograph, or when they are heading out to some celebration. Occasionally, I’ll even accept an invitation to go for coffee. After all, some of my Facebook friends I have known for years, if only online. One, for example, makes me howl with her wicked sense of humour and she lives in Australia. Another is a piano teacher and I can’t get enough of her posting videos teaching children to play.
But, no, I don’t know 90 percent of my friends on Facebook in “real life,” even if I know their birthdays, hobbies, when and where they vacation, that they got divorced, the name of their cats, what their children’s names are, and that they once saw a rare bird.
Guess how many friends I have outside the virtual world? The answer is…five.
Yes, you read that right. Outside the virtual world, I have only five friends, compared to the almost 5000 I have on Facebook. These girlfriends are the ones I can call at any hour, and who will literally do anything for me. These friends I actually talk to on the phone – I know! – at least four times a week, sometimes several times a day. When we get together at one of our houses, for quick visits, I don’t even bother putting on a bra. These are friends who are completely loyal, and I am completely loyal to them. (I’m so loyal to one best friend, a real estate agent, I won’t accept any invitations on Linkedin from any other real estate agent.)
When I needed a minor heart operation a few years ago, it was one of my five friends who came and stayed with me at the hospital. When I broke up with my son’s father, these five friends came together. Behind my back, they created a group chat on how they were going to help me through the suffering, by taking turns taking care of me. I’m pretty sure if I reached out to a random Facebook friend, and asked for help, that they would. Call me naive, but I do believe this.
My five offline best friends know the real me, not the me whose life seems so awesome on Facebook. Yet, to be honest, I’m quite candid on Facebook so, yes, most of the time it is still the real me on Facebook. Offline, my friendship circle is super tight. Loyalty is the number one trait I look for when it comes to friends. I have been fucked over, by people I thought were friends, but were not.
So in real life, I’ve learned to keep my friendship circle small, not because I don’t have time to make or keep up other friendships, but because it’s hard to weed out the loyal friends from those who aren’t.
In this article, Kelly Campbell, who studies interpersonal relationships, said the “quality of your relationships generally matters much more than the quantity. One person could report having one close friend or family member and be just as happy as someone who reports having five or 10.”
Campbell explained that, as you get married and start a family, what often happens is “your network size is drastically reduced.” Consciously or not, you start cutting out so-so relationships from your life to focus on the most fulfilling ones instead, she says. This is true, to a point, but I also get great fulfillment from seeing my Facebook friends’ posts. I’m cheering them on in good times. And I’m there for them in bad times.
A 2015 study published in the journal Psychology and Aging found that quantity of relationships was more important for people in their 20s, but the quality of relationships was more important once people hit their 30s.
Then, somewhere in between my 5000 Facebook friends, and my five best friends in “real” life, I have a number of acquaintances or people I’m friendly with, who I like seeing at parties, are former colleagues, or people I went to school with, yet our paths diverged. I may talk on the phone with them every few months, for a catch-up, or I may love partying with them at an event, but that’s the extent of our relationship.
So, yes, I have 5000 friends who I will probably never meet in person, yet consider friends, because I feel connected to them. And, yes, offline I have only five real friends. Yet I consider all of them friends.
How about you? Have you ever really connected with someone online?
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