In the beginning, it was primarily college students hanging around on Facebook during its early days, but over time it grew, and older family members started getting connected with their college-aged relatives, and then younger siblings, and now it seems everyone in existence has or had a Facebook profile at some point in time.
To say that Facebook alone has had somewhat of an impact on our society and world is an understatement. Facebook has changed how we communicate, how we share and receive information, and has democratized access to information in ways perhaps greater than the first printing press itself. However, Facebook has brought with it many problems to say the least, from unethical data collection to an increase in cyberbullying. The most dangerous aspect of Facebook, in my opinion, is how it has changed our very face to face interaction with people, specifically who we consider our friends.
Words carry with them a certain power; in many day to day conversations I hear people mention a “friend” online. I often wonder and proceed to ask, “Have you met this person?” or “Is this person really a friend?” The awkwardness looms in the silence of conversation. Can you tell these people things you couldn’t share with others? Do you wish to spend time with these people? Do you have any shared experiences with each other? Have you ever been in the same room as these individuals? Do you know if they are real?
The celebrity mentality Facebook gives us is intoxicating, but the window into our lives we share creates an intimate relationship with others that may not have been there previously, and in many ways can distort relationship boundaries that in reality come off as creepy. You may have thousands of these “friends” on Facebook, but how many will be there to be a shoulder to cry on when times are tough? How lonely will you feel when you need a real friend and you see the hundreds and thousands ignoring you? They may love or share your posts, but what is really friendship? Expanding on this, do you even consider the people you know on your Facebook friends list really friends?
Change it to “channels” or “subscribers” or “followers”, but don’t refer to people who you are simply connected to on Facebook as your friends any longer. Imagine if they changed “friends” to “lovers” and ask if you’d feel strange then.