My wife is a smart lady. The other day, my son commented that one of his friends in League of Legends was talking to him, and Candace asked how well he knew the person. The reply from my 10 year old was pretty predictable, but I was glad to know that he's careful to carry out the rules we set for him. Don't share personal information, don't tell your last name, etc. He's got the basics down well.
But what got me was my wife's further commentary on the subject, about how she has two distinct groups of people and only calls one of them friends. They're the real ones. The other, Facebook-style “friends”, she has taken to calling contacts.
It's more than just nomenclature. It's a mentality that goes along with the devaluing of what we've traditionally known as a friend. We throw around that word far too easily these days, just as we have with love, passion and other groupings of letters that have far more meaning to them than we care to admit.
When I quit writing for TNW, I spent a couple of hours really paring down my following list on Twitter. It was important because I needed my signal to noise ratio to get into better control. I still have a super-secret account that I use only to follow for work stuff, but I otherwise never pay attention to it.
But what I've found is that I've had that same screwed up ratio when it came to friends versus “friends”. While I was never someone who added just anyone on Facebook, I was “friends” with over 300 people. There's no way to maintain a real relationship with that sort of number.
As we're moving into the next year, I decided that I needed to do more than just pare down the list. I needed to remove Facebook from my life completely. It's been nothing but an annoyance for ages, yet I needed to keep it for work. Now that my work life no longer includes checking Facebook for new features, I don't have any reason to keep going back.
So today I cleaned out the list for good, removed the bookmark and I won't be going back.
That feels really good. It feels like I'm well on my way to regaining the nomenclature of friend as it's intended. That's a good way to start a year.