When The Hell Did I Get 550 Facebook Friends?

(probably could have parlayed this into being one of the designated ‘cool’ people in this poor sod’s circle of friends)

I use Facebook every day, partly because it’s a legitimately effective way to organise events with the friends I see regularly, and keep up and communicate with older friends or those I don’t see very often, and largely because I enjoy having all my personal details plastered all over the Internet for every pedophile, government official and technologically competent terrorist to see and use to bring about the untimely demise of me and everyone I hold dear. But recently I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before; that I have become one of those people who have far too many friends on Facebook, to the extent that no amount of ‘remember that time in year eight’ anecdotes will convince yourself that you actually enjoy interacting with that number of people.

I’d always despised people like that when I was younger; it might have been jealousy, that fourteen-year-old James was incapable of realising that your 500 friends didn’t necessarily make you a better person with more meaningful relationships than he was, with his mere 200 buddies. But a lot of it stemmed from my idea that the number of ‘friends’ one has, and the meaningfulness of those relationships, must somehow be intrinsically inversely proportionate, that having 10 friends meant 10 awesome relationships, while 100 mates meant 1 good friend by default. I now realise this is bullshit, and probably stems from my interest in the strategy game StarCraft II at the time, where tactics are split into two broad ideologies – lots of weak units, or a few strong ones.

For instance, just because I know people from the UCL Karate Society doesn’t mean I care less about my old friends from that music group I went to when I was sixteen; I have fewer hours in the day to devote to interacting with those people, sure, but that doesn’t mean I’m less interested in catching up with them. I’m conscious that I have a load of different groups of friends – a byproduct of hauling arse through three schools, one university, three DofE activities, two football teams, eight university societies and a blog where comments and interaction with other writers is encouraged – and dislike keeping them separate, or even being seen to prioritise them. The dodgeball and karate Christmas parties, for instance, clashed last year, and while the dodgeballers are far too nice to take my decision to go with the karate folks this way, I was aware that I’d basically said to them ‘I’d rather do something else’.

It gets ever worse when I’m choosing between two completely different things; at least those are both UCL sports societies, but what about when I tell my friend from my course I can’t go to their party because of a handball meeting? Or that I can’t go to an LGBT+ event because I’m seeing an old friend who is unrelated to both UCL and the LGBT+ community? The ideal is obviously that I can unite all my mates into smaller groups, where I don’t have to ignore Sci-Fi and Fantasy Soc buddies in favour of seeing old DofE mates, because we’re all going to watch Galaxy Quest together. Of course, this creates more problems, as people with different interests end up having to hang out to pacify me (making me the centre of this social universe, which is a commitment I’m not quite narcissistic enough to indulge in), and in trying to arrange such collaborations I end up pissing off both groups by mentioning the other relentlessly – I’m trying to get non-dodgeballers to enter a dodgeball tournament with me, and I’m pretty sure they hate me for bringing up the bloody pseudosport so regularly.

But, ultimately, this is one of those ‘good’ problems to have; I’m never far from people who I can hang out with when I’m feeling good, or shoulders to cry on when I’m feeling shit. It’s annoying having to pick and choose activities and events, because I’m genuinely unable to single out a group or groups I’m more comfortable around, but it’s an inconvenience well worth ‘putting up’ with.

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