Would you like fries with that friendship?
People ask me all the time what things I miss from the States, expecting it to be a steak or some real fancy meal. Quite to the contrary, I have discovered people miss the things they did and used the most. It is the things that were a part of my life everyday that seem to have left a hole.
So I really miss fast food.
Ahh, the cheap, quick reliability of those drive-thru windows is a long lost comfort. The warm glow of those brightly colored signs looming over the road as you drive past, beckoning you to enter and waste your money on poorly prepared pseudo-food. I remember those days.
What better way to speak to the heart of an American than taking everything social and relational out of a meal by packing the food in cardboard and shoving it out a window as somebody drives down the road. We managed to make mealtime into an assembly line. But, is that not what most of us want today? The ease of quick (and usually cheap) meals on demand fits into the way we live. We are always so busy right?
Therefore, as with so many other aspects of our culture, efficiency won the day during mealtime. It is so easy to have dinner now you do not even have to leave your car. We took the effort out of food. We also took the cost out of food, both the price and investment of time.
I bring all of this up simply to make a confession. The other day, I was in the middle of my regular Facebook stalking routine when I caught myself doing something of which I was not very proud.
I hit the “like” button.
Now before I am accused of being a “tee-totaler” on the “like” button, I am not advocating strict abstinence from its usage, merely moderation. This button is a perfectly good way of letting someone know you do, in fact, like something. But in this particular instance, I was abusing it.
You see, I ran across some wallpost in my news feed that I was probably supposed to care about. It was some random news in someone’s life and they were so proud of it they slapped it up on their wall so everyone could see. They thought it was important enough to share, and obviously the mysterious force behind Facebook that decides what I do and do not see decided it was important for me to know. Yet, I really did not care.
Here is why: This particular person was what I have decided to call a McFriend.
McFriends fall into the category of relationship that could be called a “fast food friendship.” They are someone you know and, through various circumstances, you have some connection to them; however, you have (whether consciously or unconsciously) deemed this relationship as not being worthy of any real effort. Maybe you sat next to them in a class. Maybe you popped up in their “People you may know” section on Facebook. Whatever the case, the only real evidence of a friendship is your mutually shared status as such on Facebook.
With the advent of things like Facebook, we have been able to take our desire to remove effort from life to a completely new level. When it comes to Whoppers, Burger King lets you “Have it your way,” but when it comes to friends, Facebook is guilty of the same pleasure.
Most of us have managed to create a whole list of McFriendships, and Facebook is nice enough to remind us when they have a birthday so we can give them their annual wallpost. We scroll through the events of people lives with the ease of a mouse click. (Or if you are a Mac user like myself, that really cool two finger swoosh down the trackpad.) Then, in order to give the appearance that we care, we will dash a little “like” button action in there, saying, “We care, but not enough to actually have a conversation with you.”
As a matter of fact, Facebook has all kinds of tools to maintain McFriendships. You can join a group of them and later forget you are in the group until someone sends you a mass message. Or, you can support some cause, simply because a McFriend asked you to and you do not want to seem insensitive. Finally, if you run out of options, you can always “poke” your McFriend. This gives you interaction without any of the effort of actually writing out a message.
Of course, I do not think Facebook is to blame for some diabolical plot to keep us from developing real friendships. I have many deep friends I communicate with through Facebook as well. Instead, I would prefer to look at myself and realize, if I am not careful, I will choose a cheap friendship over a good one. I will do it simply because I do not want to put the work into it. If I am not careful, I will take the effort and cost out of a real relationship (like I did my fast food meals) and have a cheap, pseudo-friend.
It may be okay to harbor McFriends on your Facebook page, but I am afraid that tendency was around before Facebook.
We want things quick and easy, and that is probably not right. The best things in my life I have had to work for, and the things I love the most, are the things for which I have worked the hardest. As best I can tell, there are typically two ways to do something, the easy way and the correct way.
Now if you will excuse me, I have some McFriends to go “poke”…
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