Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
Let me confess that in this nearly half-a-century of existence I have managed to befriend only a handful, much to the disgust of my juniors who think I am unsocial since my Facebook account has not scored a century.
I wonder when did the social networking site become a benchmark for amiability? If it has, hats off to you for redefining one of the most beautiful relationships in the world — friendship. While removing the 5,000 cap on the number of friends on your social networking site recently, you have made it into a numbers game instead of a tugs-at-the-heart, emotion-filled word that it evoked till a few years ago. How can anyone have 5,000 ‘friends’? A recent research reveals that our brain cannot accept more than 150 friends.
In our growing up years, I don’t remember competing with my friends on the popularity front. For us, a friend was one whom you met once in a while, if not everyday, instantly remembered his/her birthday and at least knew what s/he looked like. But your Facebook has clearly thrown those definitions to the wind. My juniors now think that if one does not have a few hundred friends then s/he is a recluse or a social pariah.
In the race to make innumerable ‘friends’, some of my colleagues have even befriended people whom they have not even met. So they don’t know what they look like (you can put up any picture as your profile picture), leave alone developing a certain kind of fondness for a certain person before you consider him to be your buddy.
To give the devil its due, Facebook is an excellent networking platform. But it puts everyone — from PR representatives to fellow professionals who have befriended you for some vested interests — under the ‘Friends’ category. This is an insult to those who have stood by you through thick and thin.
In today’s world when everything is getting more complex by the day, it is difficult to explain to the young ones that acquaintances are not confidants and that chatting or posting pictures on the site cannot guarantee a life-long togetherness.
My humble request to you, Mr Zuckerberg, is please introduce more categories like associates, co-workers or contacts on your site and limit the number of members on the ‘Friends’ category to just 50 so all of us will know our worth and disillusioned youngsters will not be heart-broken when their Facebook chums are not there in their hour of need.