Netiquette: Facebook “friends”

Nathan Olivieri explores the validity of our hasty online relationships

Nathan Olivieri explores the validity of our hasty online relationships

It’s almost a subconscious reaction to an ordinary chain of events. Meet, chat, leave, friend-request. People feel strangely compelled to add someone on Facebook within hours of meeting them for the first time. It seems normal, right? I mean, how else do you stay in contact? And if you don’t add them, you risk being perceived as rude, snobbish or, god forbid, not particularly enamoured with that person in the first place. The reality of the matter, though, is that every single chance encounter does not beget a lifetime friendship, yet we still feel the need to add them just in case. Long-term, this leaves everyone’s friends list with a substantial portion of one-timers, who in ordinary life would simply peter away, but in the Facebook realm continue to make unwanted newsfeed cameos. It’s one of the many great Facebook ironies that the site is now drawing us closer than ever to people that we may not really care about.

O-Week is the ideal time to see this phenomenon play out, with the aim to meet as many like-minded individuals as humanly possible. Chances are you will, and chances are you’ll seek to friend them in an effort to stay in contact and be besties for life. Chances are this won’t happen. The unfortunate reality of the situation is that you will get caught up in a little thing called life, and inevitably this contact will fall by the wayside. What remains, though, is the awkward, lingering online connection whereby you continue to learn everything about their life: their fervent political trashing of the Tories, their insatiable fascination with Two And A Half Men GIFs, or the conglomerate of annoyingly vague statuses about their partners (“So sick of all this bullshit. Wish you would just be a man about it” – just no).

Of course, no-one is holding a cyber-gun to your head. You can still ignore the request, after all. However, not only has it become such an unconscious reaction to accept, but the fact we arbitrarily measure someone’s social capital against the number of Facebook friends they have means we capitalise on any chance we have to boost this total. And, of course, there’s that monumentally awkward moment where you run into them and have to hastily explain why you never added them to begin with. There’s always something that forces your hand, or your mouse.

That said, if you can personally account for every member of your Facebook friends, I take my hat off to you.

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