At some point this year Facebook will pass the Billion mark. When the inevitable does happen—and it really is a matter of when—Facebook will connect one in every seven people on the planet. That’s ONE IN EVERY SEVEN PEOPLE ON THE PLANET! Woah! I just realized I have found myself shouting that at you, but then I stopped to consider that fact. Honestly, is anyone at all surprised by this? Is anyone even impressed? Maybe 10 years ago if someone had said,
“…wouldn’t it be awesome if in 2012 there’s this online website that connects you with your friends around the world…blah-de-blah…and you can share all the stuff you’d like to normally share with friends but you’re far away…blah-de-blah…and you can stay in touch…blah-de-blah…and a billion people use it… ”
I’m sure you’d have been impressed. I know I would have been. However, now we just shrug our shoulders and say “yeah, that makes sense.” Why then are we so blasé about this? What has happened to us so that we can just as easily be impressed with this? I think I know the answer.
At first I put it down to how easy it is to connect with people. It really is that easy. I know that if I sent an email, or a Facebook message, or a “tweet” to my friends in Korea, the UK, or Spain then I’ll typically get a response within a day, taking into consideration any time difference. 20 years ago this wouldn’t have happened. It wouldn’t have been impossible, but I’m sure it would have taken longer than 24 hours from the moment I sent a message to getting a response. Now, it’s instant. Once you hit send, it’s done. It’s a given. It’s irrelevant. We just expect it. So a Billion Facebook users? Meh.
The Real Answer
That’s what I first thought. Then it really hit me.
We’ve all become shallow individuals. We have. It’s sad for me to say that, but it’s true. We all want to be the popular kid with a voice; to stand on a podium and broadcast about me, me, me. You want to be the one who finds the next Social Media platform and be the first to announce it to all your friends. You might even go as far as wanting to be the one who invents the next big thing in Social Media. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be that person? You’d be a fool not too. And I’d be ignorant if I didn’t realize what I’m currently typing fits into this realm perfectly.
However, answer me this. How many Facebook ‘friends’ do you have? I have 240. Do I really need 240 ‘friends’? No. Can I possibly have meaningful and social relationships with these 240 people? No. Just imagine for a moment there was no Facebook and you really had 240 friends. Does anybody really want 240 friends? I like to think that I’m quite a placid person, but if had 240 real friends, then I’m pretty sure I would lose it. Besides, the limited capacity of the human brain’s neocortex (the part of the brain responsible for conscious thought, sensory perception and language, etc.) can only maintain social relationships with approx. 150 people. I’m 90 above.
Befriending the Unknown
With digital technology you can befriend a complete stranger in a matter of seconds. It’s just that easy. But why do we do it? Why do we continually befriend the unknown? Again, it’s our shallow-selves that have this need for getting to the number one spot first. If you decide that that person, regardless of whoever they are, can help you get wherever it is you want to be, then you will make ‘friends’ with them. Don’t lie. You, like me do it all the time. I can attest to it. I’m guilty of befriending complete strangers thinking they might give me what I want or provide me with a path to achieving a target. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. That’s just how it is.
With this in mind it would be easy for the anti-Social Media Brigade to point a finger and accuse us of degrading the real meaning of friendships. Why? Because let’s face it. It’s true. The paradigm has shifted. It no longer matters how many “real friends” you have in your inner circle, it’s who you’re friends with that really counts.