I remember being in high school and reading...I want to say AOL Instant Messenger away messages from my friends in college congratulating certain people on becoming their 100th or 200th Facebook friend. I had no idea what Facebook was or why that friendship thing was such a big deal...until Admitted Students Day at the College of William and Mary. I spent my weekend with an upperclassmen who showed me the ropes of college life while also assisting me with my very own Facebook account since I was in possession of a coveted key to the Facebook world: a .edu email address.
I quickly learned what the hype was all about. First, I friended my actual friends. Then, I saw Facebook friends as a sort of social status (no pun intended) and decided to friend the entire freshman class of 2009. It went something like this: "hey person I don't know yet, I see you're really into Linkin Park. Guess what? I am too! We might see each other in the dining hall sometime. Maybe we can talk about Linkin Park when we get to college. Let's be Facebook friends."
On the first day of college I had over 500 Facebook friends. The method to my madness was smart but the results were generic at best. In fact, a few people were MAD at me for friending the world. "Oh, you're THAT Mary Anna," they would say. One such hatred did lead to a brief but somewhat meaningful friendship when the accuser realized I was a decent human being.
As I muddled through college my Facebook friend collection grew but these were people that a) I actually knew and became friends with or b) someone I drunkenly met at a party and thought we should keep in touch.
Fast forward to post-college...when the phase of friending people I went to elementary school and middle school began. I think this is when "internet trolling" became a thing AND let's face it, it was mighty fun to compare yourself to the kids you used to trade lunches and eat sugar packets with. "What are THEY DOING NOW?"
As I entered the professional post graduate world, I became more selective with my Facebook friends. I deleted people I didn't know. I deleted people I didn't care to know any more. I had to meet you in person before I accepted a request from you. My list shrunk from 1,500 to a little under 1,000. It felt right.
It is now 2017. I've been on Facebook for 12 years. They sent me a little video to remind me of that. 12 years of social networking, can you believe it? And I really thought Myspace might stick around. (kidding). The way Facebook Friending has evolved, at least for me, is similar to how I started out...but more meaningful.
Let me explain. Today I meet cool people all the time. Sometimes at the bar, sometimes at an event, sometimes at a race. I connect with these people, in person, on some unique level. We friend each other on Facebook. However, there is a 75% chance we may never see each other in person again. Yet, we remain a part of each other's lives. We like, love, comment, share content in the digital social space. Facebook is our digital playground and we continue to meet up and build sandcastles together. I've found that some of these connections are very meaningful and even inspirational. It feels authentic, even though the interactions are no longer in person.
That is what was missing from the generic connections of 2008-2009: authenticity. So I dedicate this post to you, my Facebook friends of one time in person interactions. You're in my network, you are my friends and I am so happy I had the opportunity to meet you and continue being a part of your life.
Image credit: https://static-communitytable.parade.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/facebook-friends-ftr.jpg
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M.A. is a doting dog mom, writer, corporate communications manager, social media guru, comedian and journalist. She hopes to become the female Heisenberg of cold brew coffee.