Wild River Review
Wild River Review
Connecting People, Places, and Ideas: Story by Story
May 2010
Open Borders

July 29, 2010

How Many Facebook Friends are Too Many?

Filed under: WRR@LARGE — Tags: , , , , , — joystocke @ 11:22 am

by Desk Jockey

I can see it now.

Ten or 12 anonymous individuals pile into a room in the basement of a small church on New York’s Upper East Side. No one glances from side to side. At 8 o’clock sharp, a facilitator—someone who vaguely resembles the young Meg Ryan—walks into the room and welcomes us to “Facebook Friendaholics.”

“Would someone like to start?” She looks around the room. “How about you, in the New Zealand bicycle jersey?”

Desk Jockey always knows he will be the first to get called on. He stands up uncertainly, clears his throat, and begins mumbling, “Hi, I’m Desk Jockey, and I’m a Facebook Friendaholic.” Applause from around the room.

The chance that this will happen, even in Manhattan, a city where there are actual gay Jewish Republicans living on the West Side? Slim to none.

So rather than speculate about what might happen, Desk Jockey will share his descent into the lowly depths of Facebook addiction—in the hope that you, dear Wild River Review readers, may recognize some of your own behavioral patterns, and stop indiscriminate Facebook friending before it’s too late.

2005: A year that will live in infamy

Before Desk Jockey took his current, 24/7/365 position in the widget company, he held another position in the company’s Connecticut office, approximately five years ago. That job involved approximately one-quintillionth of the brain cells he currently expends, so to overcome his relentless boredom, he joined Facebook on the advice of a friend.

Once Desk Jockey signed up, he found Facebook to be an excellent way to start snooping into the private lives of his closest friends and co-workers. At this point, it’s important to note, he kept his circle of Facebook friends to people he actually knew quite well.

That ran out in about five minutes. So to further curb his boredom, Desk Jockey began capturing the addresses contained in long, tedious emails he would receive at work from colleagues.  Thus, during dial-in calls and every other conference calls associated with mundane corporate life, Desk Jockey would busily friend associates while his phone was on “mute.”

Living socially. Very socially

While making all these new FB friends, Desk Jockey began to notice that status updates, whereby you announce what you are doing at any particular moment in time, were pretty banal—to the point of “Susie ate a bagel this morning” or “Eva took little Johnny to the community pool.”

Desk Jockey vowed never to stoop to such depths and to populate his status updates only with his forays into the worlds of New York City culture, restaurants, or his quasi-Herculean exercise sessions.  (After all, if you can’t work out three hours a day, then dine at a one-star Michelin restaurant, then sit in the orchestra section at the Met afterwards, what’s the point of living in New York City?)

The surge begins, 6,000 miles from Iraq

Fast forward to the summer of 2009, when Desk Jockey began to get somewhat obsessive with his Facebook friending. He believes it happened when he reached Friend #500, an achievement he proudly announced in a Facebook status update (whereupon he was promptly told to get a life by fellow “friends.”) A countervailing theory is that it happened when a friend posed the question one day on the homepage, “How many of your Facebook friends do you really know?”

Desk Jockey responded, in his comment on her question, “All 500 of them.” But then he begin to wonder, do people actually friend people they don’t know?

The answer, he discovered, was yes, people on Facebook do friend perfect strangers. And that’s when the real addiction began.

Mutual friends: the key to building a Facebook empire

When by sheer happenstance, Desk Jockey discovered a perfect stranger with whom he had at least seven friends in common, he friended that person, not even having met him or her.

This is the way you turn 500 friends into 600 friends in one month. And then proceed to grow your FB friend list at the rate of 100 new friends every two weeks. Then 200 new friends every calendar month.

The Facebook Website, Desk Jockey is convinced, is an enabler. Every time you sign into the home page, a little reminder pops up that you have 37 friends in common with a perfect stranger.  Rather than be unfriendly (which is not proper FB etiquette), Desk Jockey began clicking “accept.”

Who’s easiest to friend on FB? Actors, Writers, and Politicians

As he began accumulating these strangers-cum-friends, Desk Jockey began aiming for bigger game in his search. (After all, his philosophy of life, as expressed on his home page is “Whoever dies with the most FB friends, wins.”). He began searching the names of actors he would see in movies, on television, or in plays; amazingly, he did have actual friends in common with these people. That was good enough for Desk Jockey, who invited these celebrities to be his friends. Often within seconds, most of these celebrities friended him right back.

(Brief aside: It’s important to note the distinction between becoming a “fan” of such celebrities (a status thousands of people can easily achieve by clicking “fan” on their page) and the elite status of becoming an actual “friend” of these celebrities, even if they wouldn’t know you if they tripped over you at Le Cirque.

At any rate, Anderson Cooper, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Valerie Harper, Tovah Feldshuh, TV star Matt Bomer, and Mamie van Doren are among Desk Jockey’s latest Facebook friends. So every time one of them attends an opening somewhere in the world, or makes a Spanish omelet at 2 a.m., Desk Jockey learns about this fascinating turn of event on the news feed. Conversely, every time Desk Jockey rides his bicycle 200 miles in a day, they learn of his achievement, whether they want to or not.

Some of Desk Jockey’s “Friends”

Politicians are another group of individuals who crave attention, and thus are also highly likely to accept a Facebook friend invitation. As a result, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, as well as Representatives Anthony David Weiner, Jerry Nadler, and Carolyn Maloney are now Desk Jockey’s friends.

Andrew Cuomo’s recent message to Desk Jockey was most interesting. After becoming Desk Jockey’s friend, Andrew sent an invitation, a few days later, to become a “fan” of his as well.

The dreaded high-school contingent of Facebookers

The latest group of needy Facebookers comes from Desk Jockey’s high-school graduating class. Side note: Desk Jockey hereby publicly announces that the low point of his life were his four years in secondary school, in a small town as dreary and vile as the town in the 1972 movie, The Last Picture Show.

One of his former classmates, planning a high school reunion (shudder), found Desk Jockey on FB. Desk Jockey took the bait, friended him back, and discovered in that classmates’ list of friends, a number of people he would cross the street so as not to meet.

However, Desk Jockey, helpless in his compulsion, friended a number of them back anyway—then friended a number of those new friends’ friends, with the exception of the bullies who used to torment him with their Jell-O.

Desk Jockey’s Fun High School Years

As a result, Desk Jockey is reliving his miserable high school years daily, being reminded of these losers’ right-wing political tendencies and their propensity for playing such Facebook time-sucks as Farmville and Mafia Wars. Fortunately, he has not yet been asked to attend any of their grandchildren’s christenings.

Obviously, besides actors, writers, and politicians, there is one group that cannot resist Facebook: Ex-high-school nerds-turned-success-stories like Desk Jockey.

Is there a limit to how many Facebook friends you can have? Fortunately, yes

Having taken a peek behind the curtain of certain fellow writers (and FB friends) Kurt Anderson and Charlie Gasparino, Desk Jockey has subsequently learned that you cannot have more than 5,000 FB friends. (Hence, some people have 4,999 friends.)

When that 5,000-friend mark is reached, Desk Jockey plans to go back through his long list of Facebook friends and delete all the ones he absolutely does not know, or any whom he suspects are Republicans.

In short, Facebook addiction is a terrible affliction. Fortunately, unlike other obsessions, it doesn’t have any calories so you won’t gain weight, and it’s free, so it won’t cost you any money.

At this point in time, anyway.

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