Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Spaniard's Friends

Back when I was 12 and went to boarding school, the first vacation back was a strange time. Everyone wanted to know who my 'best friend' was. They didn't want to know who my friends were; just who my 'best friend' was. I said I didn't have one; just lots of friends. This seemed to stun all the young folks I had hung out with in my earlier life. It was clearly an alien concept, to not have one person above all others who was first among equals.

I was reminded of this most forcefully in the last week or so when I was doing a cull on Facebook. Having crossed 250 on my 'Friends' list, I was disgusted to find that a large number of people that Facebook insisted on calling my 'Friends' were, in fact, less than acquaintances; some I had never met and there were others I fervently wished I never had.

The word, I'm afraid, has to be both the most elevated and most debased one in recent time. Consider how it's used: 'Oh, we're just friends' (when you want to indicate that there's no romantic relationship involved); 'if we became lovers where would our best friends be?' (nauseatingly sentimental notions from Seth, as if the two must be mutually exclusive); 'my friends are my family' (this is probably true for many young people today and is both tragic and reassuring though not necessarily at the same time); the priceless 'will you make frandsip with me?' (which is just pathetic); and so on.

At its best it is a sacred relationship, one where freedom combines with responsibility towards another human being most felicitously. At its worst it is Facebook and related enterprises.

So, how different am I from the kids who asked me who my best friend was, when I expect social networking sites to be hierarchical and not call every person I am connected to a 'Friend'?

End note: I am as suspicious of people who claim friendship too easily as I am of those who say they have no friends at all.

PS: This was going to be longer but this should do.

PPS: Not very cogent, am I? KBPM's post makes me realise that I failed to say one thing I had wanted to: the annoying thing about the debasement of the word is not so much that it has taken place - well, it is annoying but I can bear with that - but that people do not sometimes recognise that they confuse one order of friendship with the other.


kbpm said...

'will you make frandsip with me?' (which is just pathetic)


I have been mulling over this concept of 'friends' as recently defined, myself. But I was thinking other things, other angles.. Let me try to say it in my space!

Space Bar said...

kbpm: yes please do. i would have begun a long rant but really, it's so exhausting!

Radhika said...

With Facebook, Friend is just a number. Having said that, I am completely addicted to the number crunching.

kbpm said...

the heat, its sapping. i am linking you.
i am greatly feeling the generation gap, and sometimes i like it.

SUR NOTES said...

When I see the quiz results of a long forgotten 'friend' from school/college/elsewhere I have to keenly confront why he/she was forgotten in the first place , that is until facebook showed up in my life.

I did find my first childhood friend on facebook. And another whose complete , hard bound collection of Amar Chitra Katha saw me through many days spent in his house. These memories and people are wonderful to bring back.

But my 'partner' from 10th standard- ummm- not sure.

But you, my dear friend, I really do want to know which painting are you. And you migght not want to know, it might not even be there, but today, I am Munch's Scream.

Comeon spacebar, after this long comment, you have made me feel fondly towards facebook.

Space Bar said...

radhika: it is, isn't it?

kbpm: actually, this morning was gorgeous. but writing about this whole thing is tedious. don't know why i started!

sur: no! i'll scream right here if you like but no fb quizzes! won't!

km said...

At its worst it is Facebook and related enterprises.


//And now I will lead the beautiful chorus to "Get off my lawn" because I can't understand why Facebook is a big deal and why people keep telling me "but it's helped me connect to friends from kindergarten!".

Falstaff said...

jis ko ho diin o dil aziz uski Facebook main jaye kyon?

Space Bar said...

km: because (and this could be my answer just for now) we're all very curious about what everyone else is up to, while wanting to protect our own privacy most stringently.

falsie: translating ghalib does that, huh? (to evesdrop).

km said...

we're all very curious about what everyone else is up to, while wanting to protect our own privacy most stringently

Uh huh. Nicely put.

Shivani said...

Space Bar,

Totally agree with all you say over here (and it *is* very cogent, I thought :)) Just yesterday, after logging on to FB after a decade, I realised I have 19 'friendship requests'(a term I hate like no other) pending, all of which are from people I barely know, some of whom I’ve just exchanged e-mails with !! I felt really mean for not accepting & putting them on hold for so long. Reading this felt good, I know that I’m not alone & now, rejecting also doesn’t look like a bad option after all ;-)

Fëanor said...

But what induced you to accept the links to all those 250 people?

parotechnics said...

I must say that while I get racked also by the facebook expansion and try to keep it within control as much as I can, I don't think about it too deeply - since it's not a deep enterprise. Friendship is. And I do think that to stay committed to the idea of friendship is very hard and one struggles with it all the time in oneself and others. But reading Aristotle on friendship, made me think about some of related things more clearly. I can't find the essay I read then, but this is a pretty useful discussion:

the mad momma said...

between you and kbpm i'm very confused.