Ah, Facebook, where would I be without you? Well, probably still single, for one thing. (I met my husband on Facebook. OK, shaddup.) As if there weren’t already enough methods of online communication out there to begin with, we needed one more. And only for college types. OK, fine. I had avoided things like Xanga and MySpace because they seemed to attract a younger bunch, and that just wasn’t my thing. I had just started grad school when my university got Facebook, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to stay in touch w/ friends from undergrad and network with friends in grad school.

Well, that was all good, but then they allowed high school students to join. Mmmm, OK, iz not so gret. These were the very same people I was trying to avoid. Then people who worked for various companies could join. And then just anybody could join. Then they started adding all these obnoxious applications. No, I don’t give a shit what your horoscope says, nor do I want to plant anything on my profile, thankyouverymuch. Pretty soon, Facebook got wayyyy out of hand. There were stories about people getting into hot water over pictures of a questionable nature on their profiles.

In my own life, I found Facebook became more of an irritant than a tool in my life. Friends would use FB as a communication crutch rather than pick up the phone, or (horrors!) talk to me in person. In a society where one can feel increasingly alienated, the last thing I wanted was another means of avoiding human, real-time contact. Now, I feel like I’ve discovered its role in my life: a supplement to communication with my “real” friends. I have fewer than 100 friends on Facebook. Compared to many people, this is a shockingly low number. My rules are simple:

  • I have to actually know you.
  • I have to actually be your friend, relative, or co-worker in real life.
  • I should know (without looking at your profile) basic things about you: where you’re living, what you do for a living, marital status, kids, etc. You know, the things you know about your friends.
  • I should have some form of regular contact with you outside of Facebook, even if it’s just e-mail.

What got me thinking about all this is a friend request I received yesterday. I didn’t know who the person was, or how I knew this person. There was a message attached asking if I was going to continue to teach the undergrad class I subbed for last week. While I was momentarily flattered, I found it very, very strange. Does merely knowing me make you my friend? For many people, I fear the answer is, “Yes.” I hold my friends to a much higher standard than that, and I expect the same in return. Grad school (and your 20’s in general) can be a time of alienation, loneliness (hello, Erikson!), and ambiguity, and having a few true friends is necessary for one’s survival during this arduous phase. I’ll take five true and dedicated friends over 5000 virtual friends any day of the week.