Open letter to facebook friends

Dear FB friends,

It’s time we had a little talk. Face to face. I want to chat to you about friendship – about sharing and boundaries. I want to remind you what real friendship means and to ask you to get out of my face, facebook friends.

What defines a friend? Of course there’s no one type of friend. There are those good, old mates we’ve known forever. They’re the ones who’ve seen us at our best and worst and still remain true. They held back our hair when we threw up at that New Year’s Eve party thirty years ago. This friend didn’t tell us not to marry the man even though they couldn’t stand him and knew it wouldn’t last. And they were there when it all fell apart. This friend brings kind words and casseroles when we’re sad or sick.

There are work friends, best friends, newly minted friends, and friends from our various ‘tribes’. (Think Book Club, bushwalking group, pilates class, tennis pals).

Then there’s you, facebook friend. Now you may be a friend to me in real life, in which case, depending on the depth of our relationship, I will take the time (not much time, to be honest) to check out the photos from your recent trip to Croatia, or the cute costume you gave to your latest grandchild for their birthday. I may post an amusing or slightly insulting quip just to show I’m interested. Or not.

If we are real friends and I’ve had a great breakfast somewhere, chances are I enjoyed that meal with you and I was able to point out to you in real life the fantastic presentation, the freshness of the avocado and the vivid yellow of the egg yolks. I may have even given you a taste.

But if we’re unlikely to share a meal in the real world I wonder why you think it appropriate for me to post a photo of said meal on facebook? Surely no one is interested in seeing a photo of what I just injested? After all, there’s a reason I didn’t ask you to come to breakfast with me (my shout). We’re not real-life friends. OK?

And why do you think I want to see pictures of what you ate at St Louis Café Noir last night? You’re sharing something you think is amazing which just makes me feel bad because I didn’t get to eat it.

To share is to have a portion of something with others, to enjoy something with others. It’s real, not vicarious. So much of what you ‘share’ with me on facebook is really bragging dressed up as sharing.

I believe some areas of our lives call for privacy and restraint – boundaries. Relationships, health issues, family losses – to me these things are private and for a restricted audience. Real friends talk in person about these things and we really share our empathy, wine, or drugs (prescription only you understand).

Sure, you can complain on facebook about poor service, people annoying you in traffic, or your dodgy health. But what do you want me to do? All I can do with you, facebook friend, is to ‘like’ what you’ve written (seems weird) or write some naff comment.

Don’t get me wrong. I too am a facebook user. I occasionally post about gigs, and photos with short and pithy or poetic (I hope) captions.

But if you really want to be my friend, you’ll need to meet with me in real life. Together we’ll share the losses and joys; we’ll listen and value each others’ experiences.  We’ll share … face to face.

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