the fine print: I’ve looked at Facebook friendship from two sides now…

February 12, 2014

I’m on Facebook quite a lot. Sometimes I judge myself harshly for that. Sometimes I just feel so damn happy that it allows me a regular shot of the wit and wonder of far-flung family and friends. Other times, I hilariously send embarrassing messages to the wrong person, but end up with a drink invitation anyway and isn’t that pretty amazing. But where was I? Oh right. In addition to family and real-world friends, Facebook comes with special friends. I mean that plainly: friends who are special or specific to Facebook. Some are real-world acquaintances, former colleagues, friends of friends and the like. And some who are specific to topics, like the music-mad crowd who share their shuffle playlists each Friday as a hook on which to talk about music. Fills me with joy. No idea who these people are otherwise. Are these and the other “special” ones real friends? Yes. Maybe. Whatever? I have to say, the only times I have really put any thought into this are when other people write about it. And it seems to me that when people challenge the veracity of “Facebook friends”, it is pretty quickly clear that they are a) more visitors to and not committed citizens of the social realm and b) they are also people who complain that they don’t get Twitter and Instagram because “who cares what you ate for breakfast / lunch / dinner” (to which I say, you are following the wrong people).

However, here are a couple of very lovely takes on Facebook friendship. The first is by Ian Brown in the Feb. 8 Globe and Mail, whose “but are they real friends?” hand-wringing is ugh but leads him to a lovely recounting of his 60th birthday and an appreciation of at least Facebook friends’ birthday wishes. (“So thanks, even unto the depth of strangers.”) Wonderful little essay. You can read that right here.

The second piece is by my Gazette colleague and friend Hayley Juhl, on her blog Life’s a Trip, which is an elegant answer to the question of Facebook friends, which she offers as she does all things, with quiet grace, beautiful words and good humour. You can read that here (and maybe consider following her blog, which I hope you enjoy as much as I do).

And then you have a good day. Friend.


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