I know that I'll get a lot of stick for this column. In fact I imagine that it will generate more feedback than most editorials I've written over the years. The reason I know this, is because I've already had pretty much my whole team argue vehemently over my take on this particular subject. But anyone who knows me will be well aware that I'm not the type to back away from a fight or confrontation, so here I am, responding to Ed's column from a couple of weeks ago.
Unlike much of the World, I don't believe that Facebook is great, and I dispute the vast majority of arguments that are made in its favour. You see I'm a firm believer that if you want to stay in touch with someone, you will. And if you don't stay in touch with someone, they obviously weren't that important to you in the first place.
For example, not too long ago Benny was evangelising about Facebook, saying that he'd managed to contact a very good friend of his whom he hadn't spoken to in over ten years. Now, I can't help but question Benny's description of this person as being a "very good friend", because surely if they were a very good friend, Benny would not have chosen to ignore them for over a decade. Obviously I can't comment on Benny's feelings towards any individual, and I am only using him as an example. But logic would dictate that if someone is important to you, you shouldn't need a social networking site to track them down, since you should have never lost contact with them in the first place.
My wife has recently signed up to Facebook, because one of her cousins who's living out in Dubai invited her to. While she was logged on one evening, she decided to look up a friend of mine who lives in Australia, and sure enough, there he was on Facebook. At this point I thought to myself, just for a moment, "that's quite cool" followed by "I really should get in touch with Val". However, I then remembered that I have Val's email address, his postal address and even his mobile phone number, so if I had really wanted to get in touch with Val, I would have done so a long time ago.
You see if Val turned up on my doorstep tomorrow, I'd be thrilled to see him and would be happy for him to stay at my place for as long as he needed or wanted to. Likewise, I know that if I went to Australia, Val would do everything possible to make my stay great. In fact, the last time I was in Australia, Val was happy to drop everything for me, even though we hadn't actually been in contact for about three years.
Friendship is not based on constant contact and interaction. Friendship is based on the emotional attachment that we have to other individuals, and if this emotional attachment is real, it doesn't become weaker over time, no matter how rarely you see that person. I have a friend that I've known since I was three years old and sometimes we go two or three years without seeing each other. Does that mean that our friendship is weak? No. Does that mean that I should register on Facebook and add him to my friends list so that we can communicate more often? No. It means that our friendship is strong enough that if we get together after three years of not seeing each other, it feels as if we'd seen each other only yesterday. And besides, even if I go without seeing Julian for years, we're always sending each other random emails and text messages, usually laced with private jokes that only the two of us will ever understand.