Do you really need that many Facebook friends?

JAMI RIVERS
Opinion Columnist

Social media is desensitizing the meaning behind the word “friend.”

Before social media, making a friend meant humans had to go out and meet other humans in person and develop real relationships through face-to-face interaction. Now, we can make so-called “friends” by knowing a guy who knows a guy and clicking a button. If your profile picture is not too creepy or unattractive, chances are you will have a new friend.

A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center showed the average number of Facebook friends amongst adult users alone is 338. I could only imagine that number has increased since then. What does it mean to have over 300 Facebook friends if you only care about 20 of them?

Well, that is a pretty baffling question for many of us.

It is part of human nature to long for attention and approval. Through likes and comments, social media sites like Facebook and Instagram can provide that gratification in an instant. Dr. Stephanie Tobin from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology conducted a study that showed users who were actively participating on social media felt more connected than those who were not active.

This feeling of connectedness is one reason why so many social media users are accepting friend requests within the blink of an eye. Having more followers or friends means there is a higher chance of people interacting with their posts. Social media acts as a catalyst for our insecurities – so much so that we are adding complete strangers to our friends lists.

Do you really care about that guy who went to your high school whom you have never spoken to in your life? I highly doubt it. But since you are following him on Instagram, I guess it’s cool to like his post about his excessive consumption of protein powder before hitting the gym. It’s almost rude not to like it, right?

Social media is turning false representation of oneself into a normal thing.

Many people are fine with being disingenuous on social media as long as it pleases their audience. This is why most people are very careful to post about their lives in the most beautiful and appealing way possible. We see so many mushy posts about people and their significant others that make it seem as if their relationship is perfect. In reality, that relationship could be falling apart, but we would never know – until they post about it, of course.

In addition to this, there are plenty of reasons people become friends on social media that have nothing to do with being friendly. Some people keep friends or followers for malicious reasons. Many of us follow people simply because we expect them to follow us back. It’s like an unspoken common courtesy for social media users. Isn’t that pretty odd? Why do we expect strangers, or even mere acquaintances, to reciprocate our requests?

If I were to take a moment to read the names of every friend I have on Facebook, I am sure I would only find a handful of them to be significant to my life. I would also find some people who I have never seen or heard of in my life. I am sure there are plenty of others who could say the same.

We should all take a closer look at our social media accounts and what kind of people we are sharing our personal lives with. It is definitely better to have a few friends who you really care for and value, as opposed to having 500 “friends” who could not care less about how bad of a day you are having.