Note: this topic came up when one day Ecky and I were exchanging gossip about someone we both know, and one sentence from Ecky struck me: ‘Do you think she even has real friends?’ I then tried to remember all the occasions she turned up, and realized that she was never with friends, always with her then boyfriend and his friends, whom she’s become close to (nothing’s wrong with that, but she wouldn’t have spent almost 30 years in her life without a single friend of her own, would she?). When attending her wedding I noticed that all of the guests are the groom’s, none of them are hers. But when I peeked at her friends list in Friendster, she’s got hundreds. This has haunted me for days.
Have you noticed that the online community is never as big and as strong as nowadays? With Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Bebo, and God knows what others, we are swamped by err… obligation, to collect virtual friends as many as possible.
How many of you keep opening your friend’s page and see if they have more friends than you do? And if you have less number than others, how many of you frantically start adding people you barely know just to keep up with others’ numbers? And how many of you thinking that your popularity is determined by the numbers of virtual friends you have? How many of you decide a set of standard of people who can be your friends? (i.e must be gorgeous, must be from certain race, must be married or have a certain race of husband/boyfriend, must live in certain country, must have photos that show them ever been to abroad, must went to colleges abroad, etc.).
Does having virtual friends actually mean something for you? I’ve seen people collecting virtual friends like crazy. It’s not unusual to see a guy’s Friendster page is full of beautiful girls from 18 to 81 years old, and by the comments they’ve left on his page it’s clearly shown that they didn’t know each other (thanks for adding me. Nice to meet you. Nice to know you. Ha, and to see that the guy has more than 300 friends already tells us something). But whatever hidden (and dirty) agenda the guy has by collecting gorgeous girls as his friends, it doesn’t mean that girls are immune from this trend. Girls do that too, keep adding friends, probably for a slightly different agenda.
Some of us are so sucked into this virtual world we feel better to leave comment in our friend’s Friendster page rather than phoning or sending text or card. By leaving comments in our friend’s Friendster page we know that s/he and the entire world will get the message. Some of the comments are actually more like ping-pong messages I wonder why they don’t use email instead? Hey, I’m no better than you guys, I DO that too sometimes!
But seriously, have you ever looked at your friends list and started wondering how the hell you know this person and end up having her/him in your list? Have you ever counted how many real friends you have?
I‘ve tried to to control my friends list in Friendster. Most of the people in my list are actual, real friends. They are my cousins, best friends, colleagues, school mates (I think Ingrid will break the record, we’ve known each other since kindergarten, when I was 4 years old!), even long time neighbors. Some of them are acquaintances, friends of friends’ or spouses of friends’ or friends of my spouse’s. But even I do have a few of people I don’t know in my list, never speak to them, and have no idea how we end up ‘friends’ at the first time.
But it got me thinking yesterday, that even among hundreds of real friends I have in Friendster, only a handful of them are counted to be my real, real friends. Those whose mobile numbers I have and who have my numbers in their mobiles. Those whom I send texts and exchange unimportant stories. Those who care enough to phone me and invite me to parties. Those who send emails regularly to me. Those who spare two minutes in their life just to update me with the newest gossip in town. Those who care enough to say good luck when I need it. Those, just by the tone of my SMS, know I need a shoulder to lean on. Those who remember my important dates. Those whom make me travel thousands of mile to attend their weddings (luckily the furthest is in Singapore, I was lucky Grace didn’t decide to get married in South Africa, but sadly I missed Maggie’s in UK, although I went to her second reception in Makassar), and those who willingly traveled thousands of miles to attend mine. Of course there are some odd case. 2 of my ex-bosses have got my new mobile number as well as my new email address, and regularly exchange news with me, while there is a girl who attended my bachelorette’s party in Bali didn’t even say goodbye when I left Jakarta and didn’t respond when I sent her card expressing my condolences when her father has passed away).
So I guess the number of virtual friends in Friendster doesn’t say anything. I’m lucky that in several cases my virtual friends have turned into real friends. My real, real friends are those who I invest time and energy to be with and vice versa.
And how many of them? A handful. Not hundreds.
Do I care? No. I’d rather have a bunch of best friends than hundreds of acquaintances who can’t even spell my name right!. I’d rather have a handful of real friends than hundreds of virtual friends.
Thank you and goodnight.