Budi Putra posted a very interesting fact about Facebook: as of March 2010, Indonesia is at the top rank of Facebook users in Asia. With 18.9 million users, Indonesia is well ahead of the number two, Philippines (10.5 million), and number three, India (6.8 million). I am not surprised. Indonesia might pick up the trend quite late, but once the country is hooked with something, it’s like watching an epidemic that spreads so quickly in a matter of seconds.
Suddenly we are hooked with lots of old friends we haven’t seen and heard for years. Primary school buddies, high school friends university mates, ex-neighbours, former clients, vendors, business acquaintances, and even long lost relatives suddenly pop up and say hi in our ‘wall’ and before we know it we get reconnected.
The thing about Facebook is once we are a friend of someone’s, his/her friends can see us and are able to add us as well. It can be quite embarrassing when someone adds us and we have no idea who this person is, although we are quite certain we spent 3 years in high school together as we share 20 or so mutual friends. Sometimes it is because the name has changed as she got married and drops her maiden name, and we have to make sure she is the person we used to know. Or it is because we know him as “Mario” while his real name is Marjonokusumaputra and we’ve had no idea about it at all until recently. Sometimes it is because they look totally different now – something that apparently a lot of my old friends claim about me (I just lose the extremely thick, enormous spectacles I had worn since I was 10, and have longer hair, but they insist I look different).
There are three categories of old friends in facebook. One is those whom we remember dearly and remember us too, and both are beyond ecstatic when get reconnected. Facebook is only one medium which brings us closer again. We are back in touch after meeting in facebook and basically back in being friends again, not just virtually, but in real world. Like Trisyandi and I, who have been friends since high school and had been separated when she went to Yogya for college, and I went to, well, pretty much everywhere. We hadn’t heard about each other until another friend tracked her down and put her in touch with me again. Last October, after almost 2 decades, I have finally met her. We chatted non-stop since the moment she showed up on my doorstep until 4 o’clock in the morning. And last month when I went back to Indonesia again, I took a chance to visit her in Yogya. It was us back in high school, with several lines on our faces, some pounds on the hips and few life-changing moments we both have been through. These are the kind of friends we are more than happy to endure extra miles to see them.
Second category of facebook old friends is those who slightly remember us and vice versa, and both can walk down memory lane quite a bit. We exchange few hellos in facebook, might exchange phone numbers or chat via instant messenger several times, and even go even further to meet up once or twice. I sat down in a restaurant with other friends from high school whom I haven’t seen for decades on my last trip back to Indonesia, listening to their conversation about this or that teacher, and this or that friend. They started drawing a virtual class-seating diagram and I was amazed how they can remember who sat next to whom. I, I couldn’t even remember which class I was in, let alone who sat next to me! The semi-private room in that restaurant was filled with laughter and endless conversation topics flowing one after another. Everybody is as exactly as I remember, and I couldn’t be happier. But then we’d go separate ways with fond memories about each other, and would only, or might be, in touch via facebook, until maybe there is another special moment that reunite us back again.
And the last category is those who add us as their friends but leave no indication whether they still know us or not. They might add us because it is suggested by other friends who think it is a good idea. Or they might add us because we thought we still know them and add them at first. There might be one hello or one confirmation that we are who we were used to be, but then there is no more further conversation. Neither is interested in each other’s lives and soon enough we’d forget about having them in our list. We keep them quietly for ‘just in case‘, but the moment most likely never comes. It’s like having 10 umbrellas but never remember where they are located anyway. Once or twice we scroll down the list of friends and we wonder how they are, or worse who they are! But we either are too lazy or too polite to delete them. Or we are just plain nosy and still want to have access to their daily lives. So when they post new pictures, we take glance and ruthlessly make a mental note that they were in Japan last month for holiday (wondering how they afford it), or wear ridiculous tops (wondering whether fashion police will catch them), or have gained at least 10 kgs (glad we still have some waist).
The last type is the reason why I write this post. I have been looking at my friends list in facebook closely and wonder the extend of these almost-a-thousand-friends. Some of them naturally fall into the third category. And I have been asking myself: for what? Because even in facebook, we still have to maintain our friendships. Show some attention, remember their birthdays, chat once or twice, meet-up if possible. Just like what we do with real friends. Facebook isn’t a new version of address book, where we jot down all the names of people we know or (might) need. It’s a social networking website where we interact virtually with each other. If we need a fancier address book, we shall download a different program.
So if neither of us thinks is important to start the conversation now, then it wouldn’t be different next week, next month, or next year. Sometimes, old things should be preserved and maintained. Sometimes, old just means old and it’s time for a change. Just because we went to the same school together, doesn’t mean we have to know each other now. Just because we were friends 20 years a go, doesn’t mean we have to be friends now.
What do you think?