Hi my name is D and I’m looking to connect with AB and C all the way through Z. What is it about social networking that makes these praised connections seem so much more valuable than friendship? Possibly, it’s the beguiling promise of connecting in 3 easy steps. Step one: name, step 2: email, step 3: about me (and here’s the tricky part, hm, what to say about the online version of myself) – remember it’s all about revelation, not reticence, so excuse me while expose myself in a narcissistic attempt to ‘be friended’ (digitally of course). Once you’ve jumped onto the virtual merry bandwagon you’re hooked – there’s no turning back. No more penned pages to fill with personal thoughts hidden from the world, nope, this dear diary has gone digital.
I’m in, or so I thought. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Regularly logging on in anticipation of the revered social currency of friends and followers. You have 1 friends, my page reads. Gasp! My carefully honed media campaign has failed. Did I miss the lesson that divulged the secret to the acquisition of virtual friends? I remember now, I was too busy spying on the rich lists of others, praying to the cyberspace gods to grant me a few digital neighbours. I also discover that in our search for social status, reciprocity is vital. Gross, the thought of scratching the backs of strangers is too much to bear. However, my addiction to a good chardonnay has been replaced by the need to dominate these virtual galleries. Therefore, I expose myself a little more; divulging intimate details – airbrushed photo, hottest hobbies, coolest opinions – hell, my best real-world friend would probably discover a secret or two. I can hear her now, ‘I didn’t know that you’re a keen sommelier (well neither did I but I love wine so there you go). Don’t trust everything you read comes to mind, especially as we clamour for attention – this could be worse than frenzy created by the 50% sale at Woolies. Note to self: Google Proteus.
As we, the virtual junkies spend hours a day crafting our gathering prowess, playing in the virtual world of find-a-friend seems like a great idea. But these fair-weather friendships are very different from real-world friends. Real intimacy requires risk. So in our quest to friend or not to friend, how do we gauge the real value of friendship. Well, I say in the spirit of connections gather your friends, tweeps and bleeple and when it comes down to choice – sift the wheat from the chaff by naming those who need an invite to your next birthday celebration (especially when you’re paying). Just remember that a true friend is someone who really knows you and loves you just the same.