I’ve always been a little bemused when I see people with over 2000 facebook friends. Although it’s very likely that you’ve met all of those people at one point or another, it is literally impossible to be able to maintain a relationship with that many humans. Genuinely though, it’s been studied- the Dunbar Number is the number of people that it is possible for a person to maintain a meaningful relationship with, and it’s supposed to be approximately 150 (see this article on the Dunbar Number).
I sometimes find myself performing a bit of a facebook cull, trying to delete people that I know I will never need or want to speak to again, but most of the time I end up deleting only 2 or 3 people. I justify this by thinking, ‘It would be rude to delete them, maybe I will speak to them again when our paths cross even though they’ve moved to Moscow now and our last conversation ended, ‘yeah life’s been good the last three years thanks’’ with nothing more to say. This got me thinking about the types of facebook friends that I have, and that you probably have too.
1. The bezzies
These are the cream of the crop, the bee’s knees, the cookie dough of the Ben and Jerry’s selection, the Oscar Winners against a sea of films of a similar standard to ‘The Room’. In other words, these are the people who are actually your friends and who you talk to on a regular basis. These are your saucy mains in amongst a clutter of side salads. You might even care about their status updates.
2. Social network acquaintances
This is my term for people who you aren’t necessarily good friends with but with whom you share a mutual cyber relationship, consisting of the regular liking of facebook statuses, tweets and instagram photos. You may not be having a direct conversation, but if you were, it would go something like ‘I really appreciate your occasional witty tweet and the photos you post of flowers and puppies’.
3. School friends
These are your friends from school who were never really your friends; some of them were actually quite the opposite. I still have people on facebook who used to throw leftover food at my group of friends in the year 11 cloakroom. I highly doubt I’m ever going to be spending quality time with them again, but I think the reason I’ve kept them on facebook is the fact that we all still live in the same town and are probably going to carry on seeing each other on nights out for a few years to come. Obviously everyone’s maturity levels have risen far beyond secondary school bullying, but friendship groups are still set firmly in place and probably won’t change any time soon.
4. Friends you miss
These are your super friends who you miss but never seem to be able to find the time to follow through with your plans. Your friendship page is littered with ‘I miss you’, ‘Let’s hang out soon!’, ‘COME BACK TO ME I HAVE NO ONE ELSE TO EAT WAFFLES WITH HOW COULD YOU LEAVE ME LIKE THIS’, but you never seem to actually eat your waffles together. So sad. Usually these are your home friends but can extend to uni too, as long distances and busy schedules do their best to thwart your plans to make waffle mountains together. This also applies to people who you shared an amazing experience with, like SKUM or Lourdes or Yes Week; you’re always thinking about finding a reason to reunite, but it never seems to materialise.
I feel like I have so many people that I miss and want to connect with again, and I expect everyone else does too, so let’s all make a group effort to make time for one another, spreading the love and all that jazz.
I fervently declined my mum’s facebook friend request and for good reason- she didn’t realise that I drank alcohol until I was 16 and returned from Reading Festival with bottles of vodka in my suitcase (which she promptly poured down the sink; an economically poor decision at best). I still have various aunties and cousins on facebook though, but it acts more as a birthday reminder than an actual means for communication. Apart from with my sister of course, who will happily facebook message me from downstairs to let me know that Love Actually is about to start on ITV.
6. Party Friends
This is probably the most common reason for those people you have on facebook who you need to squint at before remembering who they are. These are the people that were your best friend for one drunken night of dancing, cackling and sharing chips and cheese, only to find that once you’ve sobered up and accepted the friend request the fun seems to stop there, and you never speak again unless you cross paths in another drunken escapade.
Along with social network acquaintances, these peeps probably could hop into your bezzies category if circumstances allowed. What I find strange about our relationship with our facebook friends is that it isn’t really considered normal to strike up a conversation with someone out of the blue that you don’t know that well. Why are we averse to this? You are friends on facebook, and yet the possibility of actually deepening your relationships with your party friends seems oddly minute. Instead of using facebook as a means to genuinely extend our social circle, it seems like more of a trivial collection of profiles that attempt to prove your social stance to others.
This situation also applies to people on your course who you’re not really friends with but see every so often in lectures, and people that you’re friends with because you went out with them one night and they took photos that you wanted to be tagged in.
Other facebook types:
Annoying status friends:
No further explanation needed.
People you stalk:
Let’s face it, you only kept these people as friends so that you could continue to stalk them (ex friends, romantic exes, your boyfriend’s exes, their exes, that person whose eyebrows are getting gradually worse and worse yet no one seems to be telling them to stop plucking, etc).
You hope that these people will one day accommodate you on one of your many travels, even though you haven’t spoken in 5 years.
Friends with babies:
Those friends whose facebook walls have just become a platform to showcase their baby. Occasionally these people are teenagers, meaning their baby/mummy selfies are intermittent with Chameleon club photos.
People you’d completely forgotten existed until they pop up on your news feed declaring their new relationship status and a new hobby (curling seems popular after the Winter Olympics).
Gap year friends:
People who are having amazing gap year adventures that just make you jealous and depressed that you’re sitting in the rain while they take selfies on the beach at Byron Bay.
Facebook friends who are actually club nights:
I would have one more if Bridge Thursdays in Oxford hadn’t been so freaking exclusive. It seems like these would be a lot easier to manage if they had made themselves a page instead of a fake person, but we have to add them if we want to see those dreaded photos from Saturday night.
People who use facebook mainly to post photos of their drunken shenanigans. This is me, plus most other uni freshers; very sorry.
People who use facebook to document their exercise:
I mean what is this, really: Unless you have just run a marathon, no one is that interested in how quickly you ran a few kilometres or the route that you took. This also applies to people that publically announce every single visit to the gym.
People who you genuinely don’t recognise, or remember how or why you know them. If you can’t put a face and a name to any sort of hazy source, these people probably should be able to access your entire virtual life story.
Though facebook is undoubtedly a great way of staying connected with your friends, in some ways it does seem to detach people from each other. What is the point in having 1000 facebook friends if you’re not going to talk to them? Some food for thought: it is certainly easier to stalk than talk, but maybe we’ll all feel a little more fulfilled if we get a little bit more connected with each other. Start a conversation with a person you’re missing and see what happens. Or see if this post inspires a mass facebook cull.
Lots of love, Megsy x