I had a cup of tea with a friend a while back and she told me she was feeling a bit low because another friend had stopped liking her updates and photos on Facebook, something to which she had taken great umbrage.
She, rightly or wrongly, assumed this inaction was a sign of a bigger problem in the friendship – a conclusion she only reached when her real life friend of ten years seemingly lost interest in her online life.
My friend responded by giving her friend the same virtual cold shoulder and they were now engaged in a Facebook standoff with neither one of them liking, commenting or acknowledging the other’s presence on their timeline.
My friend, now believing a real problem exists in the friendship, has not contacted her friend by any other means since. She has not picked up the phone to say hello or sent so much as a text message or friendly email.
Has regular Facebook interaction joined loyalty, kindness and trust as a desirable friendship trait?
While Facebook is brilliant for keeping in touch with old friends from school, ex-work colleagues and family who live overseas, it is not a real place and certainly not a reliable way to measure how tangible a friendship is.
No amount of comments on a status can replace a good old-fashioned chinwag with a mate, and no amount of likes on a photo will ever feel as good as seeing someone in the flesh and telling them how amazing they look.
Besides, everyone I know on Facebook uses it very differently. Some may use it primarily for work, whereas to many others it can be a lifeline. Some people post 5 times a day and others twice a year. Some over-share, while others are much more guarded.
Who is to say how anyone else runs his or her accounts? There are many ways to feel invisible on social media but taking these things too personally can only lead to unnecessary hurt and confusion.
I am on Facebook much less than when I first joined back in 2007, and since I started my new job there are days when I am hardly on there at all. Often, I will scroll through while I am waiting for a bus, or I’ll quickly check notifications when I open my email in the morning. I’ll schedule posts on the pages that I manage and occasionally I’ll have a liking and commenting spree on the posts that appear in my feed at the time. If I don’t like or comment on a significant update, it is usually just because I haven’t seen it.
I’d be amazed if any of my friends even noticed and if they did, I’d hope that if the news was important enough to want to share with me, then they’d give me a call.
For arguments sake, let’s say my friend was right and her friend was intentionally engaging with fewer posts than she used to. Is that really so bad?
Maybe she was posting too often, or about things that didn’t interest her friend. Maybe she shared too many results from online quizzes (GUILTY!) or changed her profile picture every day. Maybe the endless photographs of her lunch/kids/pets/self were clogging up her friend’s timeline.
Who knows what experience others are looking for when they log in to Facebook and none of us should feel obliged to interact with absolutely everything our friends’ post online.
Yet, when someone has a very active presence in your online life and then suddenly vanishes into cyberspace, it can send an unsettling message.
In a healthy relationship, the first thing you would do is make sure they are ok but in my friend’s case the same time her friend disappeared from her virtual inner circle, she dropped off the radar in person too.
When no explanation was offered, my friend turned to Facebook for reassurance.
Which brings me to this: you will probably only notice the distance from Facebook friends if you are looking for it and if you are looking for it, perhaps you need to ask yourself why.