Hundred of friends all over the world

Bob McKee

Mark Zuckerberg is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $18 billion today because back in 2004 he wanted to let his friends at Harvard know what he was doing and in turn catch up on their comings and goings via personal computers. So he and a couple of friends invented a social networking service called Facebook.

The idea quickly spread to other university and college campuses where students with a need to know embraced the concept. Ivy League schools and east coast colleges were unable to contain the phenomenon and before anyone knew it the website for the curious and nosy had gone nationwide, then worldwide. Facebook has several million users now. I’m one of them.

I had no intention of opening a Facebook account or whatever it was that you had to do to get on Facebook. There was no overwhelming desire to share my thoughts and mundane daily activities with a few million other people or for that matter read about theirs. I’m old school enough to believe that if someone wanted me to know what they’re thinking about something or someone, or felt impelled to describe their weekend, they would call me and tell me, send me cards and letters or, my only previous concession to computers, send me an e-mail. Any such information originating on my end would be shared by the same mediums and it would stay that way forever. Or so I thought.

Now I’m hooked, an information junkie, addicted to Facebook posts about people I barely know or remember and likely would not recognize if I ran into them on the street. That’s not their fault, it’s mine and I apologize to anyone whose feelings may be hurt by that admission. Please don’t stop posting things on Facebook; I’m interested, really.

Of course there are some close and longtime friends who have befriended me again on Facebook. And there are relatives and family members who have Facebook accounts, although Facebook tells me there are only three now who fall into that latter category. And Facebook lists only 35 friends as my contacts while I know for certain that there are more than that. I think. Then there are no contacts shown by Facebook for friends from this newspaper where I once toiled daily; none from the University of Missouri-Columbia or Missouri State University; or for that matter none from Central High School in Springfield, Mo.

When one of the daughters opened a Facebook account for me several years ago so we could keep up with two grandsons then living in Germany with their career Air Force mom and dad, I was inundated by “Friend Requests.” I knew a lot of the people making those friend requests and most of the others were accompanied by a notation that informed me “you have 27 mutual friends.” I would always check to see who those 27 mutual friends were and then conclude that if the person making the current friend request was good enough to be friends with 27 of my other friends, they were good enough to be friends with me. In the beginning I ignored very few of those friend requests in the belief — still held — that everyone needs all the friends they can get.

There are people who list hundreds of friends on Facebook and at one time I thought I would soon be among them, especially after I checked one day and learned I already had 91 Facebook friends. Three years later Facebook tells me I only have 35 friends? What happened to the other 56? 

There is a way to “unfriend” someone from your Facebook account but I haven’t needed or wanted to use it. Obviously some of my “friends” did, probably after I learned how to block all those FarmVille requests (one of many games Facebook users can play with help from their friends). Since I learned how to block FarmVille requests, I’ve blocked other game requests and I like it that way. Apparently 56 of my friends, maybe even a whole bunch of relatives, didn’t like it and clicked on the “unfriend” icon.

Well here’s a bulletin: if our friendship hinges on whether or not I give you more chicken feed for FarmVille; more portobello mushrooms for CafeVille; or more wood planks for CastleVille, it’s okay. Just keep that cursor away from the unfriend button.