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I’m With Stupid – June 17, 2016

by Todd Hartley

Todd Hartley-smallYou guys have heard of Facebook, right? If you haven’t, it’s this website that people go on to brag about themselves and tell everyone what they had for lunch. It’s all pretty silly, but apparently some people take it very seriously and think more highly of themselves if other people indicate that they like what the person did that morning or like the picture that person posted of their cat.

The weirdest thing about Facebook, though, is the way it has changed the very definition of friendship. To use myself as an example, I have, in reality, maybe a dozen close friends. I can’t say for sure that all dozen would agree, but to date they haven’t told me they aren’t my friends, so we’ll go with that number. On Facebook, however, I have 661 “friends.” This is patently absurd. All that really means is that 661 people from my past remembered my name.

I can still recall when I first joined Facebook so I could view photos from a high school reunion that I didn’t attend. No sooner had I signed up than I got a friend request from a guy I despised in high school. Why? What made him think that in the intervening 20 years of not seeing him or speaking to him something had changed to make me think better of him? And furthermore, why would he care what I’m up to these days, anyway? I certainly didn’t care what he was doing.

It took me awhile, but I finally realized that he and many Facebookers like him don’t care what other people are up to; they just want to let as many people as possible know all the awesome things they’re doing and how great they are. It’s quite masturbatory, really, and it leads to a big problem.

You see, I have actual friends who post many times a day on Facebook, and though I honestly like them in real life, just seeing how much they brag about themselves and subject others to the stupefying minutiae of their lives is making me start to hate them. I suppose I could unfollow them and not see their posts, but in my mind that seems like some sort of a betrayal of our actual friendship.

I won’t name any names, but I bet those people know who they are, and to them I have a new Facebook request: Stop posting on Facebook so frequently. Seriously. If you get married or divorced, or you have a child or get a new dog, by all means tell people about it. But nobody cares (and these are real posts from just this morning) that you went for a hike or that your friend went rafting.

The one nice thing about Facebook, as far as I can tell, is that it has allowed me to catch up with people I used to know and like in high school and college. But as our catching up has been entirely online, can I still consider them friends? Probably not, and I’ll explain my rationale using myself as an example again.

I’ve lived in the Aspen area for many years now. In that time, I’ve had more jobs than I can recall and I’ve met lots of people. Nowadays, when I walk around with my wife, we’ll encounter someone whom I’ll exchange pleasantries with and my wife will ask who the person is. I’ll typically respond by saying that the person is a friend of mine.

“How do you figure?” my wife will generally respond. “You don’t hang out with that person, talk to that person or do things with that person. How is that person your friend? That person is an acquaintance.”

Here’s the thing: She’s absolutely right. That person is an acquaintance and not a friend, and there’s nothing wrong with that. So maybe Facebook should have two categories: one for “friends” and one for “acquaintances.” That way I could unfollow people without any guilt.

Just last week I had a reunion with some old friends (yes, real friends), none of whom is a big Facebooker, thankfully. It was really nice to catch up with them in person rather than online, and it made me realize how superficial and pointless Facebook friendships can be, especially if one’s “friend” insists on telling everyone what he or she had for breakfast every day.

So anyway, if you’re that kind of person, please stop. I promise I’ll like you more if you do.

Todd Hartley is lying to himself if he thinks he has 12 friends, as he can only name five of them.

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