A Friend Indeed

Friends for life?

“A friend to all is a friend to none.”  Aristotle

“Words are easy, like the wind; Faithful friends are hard to find.” William Shakespeare

Why do we “friend” so-called “celebrities” on Facebook?

Do we think they need our support? That can’t be it, they’re celebrities, so they’ve been doing well without us so far.

Is it that we think we’ll be a part of their inner sanctum, their close circle of real friends with whom they’ll share their innermost secrets? I doubt it. Most celebrities already have their entourage well and truly sorted.

Perhaps it’s self-delusion and we’re trying to appear a trusted confidante to make our other Facebook friends jealous? Well, that’s just dumb.

Or is it simply hero-worship?

The true level of reciprocated feeling between these celebrity folk and their Facebook ”friends” is often abundantly clear – you only have to read the text to see it. The celebrity might post a throwaway status update like “Back in town – hope it’s better this time” to which will then be appended a hundred and seventy-six comments from “friends”. Some will be asking for an explanation, some might offer helpful suggestions. They want to be a part of this guy’s life, and they want everyone to know it. Some, for reasons known only to themselves, will “like” the post, as if that will take them even closer to their idol, a kind of “yeah, I’m with you man!” moment.

The problem is the celebrity often doesn’t respond. Like a disinterested fisherman he has cast the bait, but doesn’t care what bites. He has a room full of trophies and has no need for more.

I sometimes think I understand what’s going on in the world of social media. I catch myself thinking deeply about the whole thing, like playing a really good game of chess. I analyse what people are saying and try to get inside their heads to see what they’re after. I read the responses and search for meaning in the endless litany of replies. But sometimes the cynic in me wins and I develop short-term Tourette syndrome, shouting obscenities at the screen.

Perhaps acquiring celebrity Facebook friends is the modern-day equivalent of autograph hunting – you “friend” someone and that makes you think you have a connection, that you’re now somehow part of their world. You have pushed your way through the crowd and touched them, and a piece of their success has rubbed off.

But it can never be so.

Celebrities are often too self-involved to have the emotional time, energy or inclination to really connect this way. They follow the stereotypical path that celebrity status conveys and have no need for real interaction with ordinary people. It as if their web-based standoffishness somehow validates and enhances their position in life.

To them social media is just another way of maintaining currency in an ever-transient world. Their status updates become their PR agent, keeping them foremost in the minds of their legion of fans. After all, we’re told there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

It’s ok to want to follow your idols – it’s not a bad thing – but sometimes I think our energies could be channelled in more substantial ways. Instead of living vicariously through someone else’s world wouldn’t it be more rewarding to experience our own? After all, they’re just people, made exactly like you and me.

Here’s a suggestion – look closely at yourself, and you might just discover the hero you seek is you.

“I don’t need a friend who changes

when I change and who nods when I nod;

my shadow does that much better.”

Plutarch

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