The Complicated Social World Of Facebook – When Is A Friend Not A Friend?

Posted by Riaz on April 5, 2016 in Life |

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I had a message from a friend the other day. The tone was a little plaintive. Somewhat distressed, in fact.
“Why didn’t you respond to my post? About my problem?”
She had posted something on Facebook. A problem, in fact. I didn’t respond for a number of reasons –

1. I didn’t see it initially. Facebook keeps altering the algorithms of what you see in your news feed, we all know that. In fact, they came in for some criticism roughly a year ago for deliberately altering the algorithm so that people would only see sad and negative stories in their news feed. Of course, we all have the option of marking a person as a ‘close friend’ and so even if their post doesn’t appear in your news feed, a notification will appear to inform you they have posted *something*, regardless of what it is. Not a perfect work around but useful I guess. Maybe I should use that option more.

2. I regarded this person as a genuine friend, not as a “I’ve never spoken to them, never met them in real life, but boy, they’re my best friend on Facebook!” type friend. I had met the person, chatted to her a lot and felt I had a good, strong friendship with her. She has my mobile number, my home address, my email address. So if she genuinely wanted my input, my feedback, my thoughts on her pressing concern, she would have contacted me directly, by either of those three different methods. By posting the problem on Facebook, and so canvassing the opinion of her nearly one thousand Facebook ‘friends’ (the post setting was ‘public’) then to me, it wasn’t the sort of problem that required my personal intervention. She didn’t need me for support, in the context of the online virtual social media world of Facebook.

2.a (because it’s not quite a point 3, but is worthy of being separated slightly from 2. A bit like placing a block of butter on the shelf down from the margarine in your fridge. ). You know that oft quoted example of human nature regarding being the spectator to a car crash? That if you witness it and ten or twenty people reach the scene before you do, you are far less likely to offer to help or to become involved, as there is an assumption that those twenty people know what they are doing. So you become a bystander. Whereas if there is nobody else around then you are most likely to act on what you have witnessed – calling the police, going over to see if you can extract the occupants from the car if needed, and so on. So I find that it is the same on Facebook a lot of the time, that if someone posts something and you are a little behind on the replies, then you are far less likely to reply because “everyone’s said what I would have said anyway.”

3. I don’t really have a point three, but as the number three is seen as quite a spiritual and significant number to the followers of Alistair Crowley and The Golden Dawn, not to mention fans of the Back To The Future TRILOGY, then I thought I would make a third pointedly pointless point here.

But hey, back in the land of Seriousville, I just don’t know if I’m right or wrong. Was she justified to be hurt? Am I supposed to validate her feelings by way of being contrite and humble? We all have different internal rules for processing each different social interaction. What one person may term as etiquette (“You are a friend, you should have interacted with me”) another may term as impropriety.

But really, I would rather not have Facebook as my central hub, where all my Friends gather to post their problems, hoping that I (or another friend) will become involved and reply. It’s fine of course, for certain types of issues. But I’d like to think if someone actually needs me, then they would contact me personally, speak to me directly, add to the bond of friendship we already have by taking me into their confidence. Because we all like that feeling of being needed. That special feeling that we are trusted, away from the superficial world of social media sites.

 

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