As the art of communication continually evolves, perhaps we should also be keeping tabs on our ability to connect as humans, in the same way we do our friend’s insta feed.

I was thinking about this earlier in the year as I scrolled through my Facebook friends-list. I’m not what I would call a “friend collector”, as in, happy to add any man and his dog (and their cousin) as a “friend” but I still found myself wondering who all these people were, and when was the last time I’d actually seen them in person?

My conclusion? Sobering stuff – I realised that there were more than a handful that I had actually never met at all. In effect I have succumbed to the notion that a Facebook friend is not like a “real-life” friend, they are a new, totally different entity, one that we may never physically meet, talk to or have anything in common with.

The Oxford dictionary currently defines a friend as:

noun. noun. /frend/ a person you like, a person you know well and like, and who is not usually a member of your family.

The good people at Oxford might have to add an additional variant:

… or a person (probably real) who you know, barely know, really don’t know at all or mistakenly clicked “accept” when prompted by a Facebook friend request.

Maybe the simpler way is for them to overhaul the definition all together:

noun. noun. /frend/ a person (probably real).

The benefit of being “friends” has been devalued accordingly. A “like” on Facebook is now sufficient as a well-being check-in that in the past it would have been at least a text. A comment or emoji has replaced a call or visit, and any thoughts of the “neighbour drop-in” have evaporated. Not only do we not know our neighbours, but we aren’t even connected to the people physically closest to us, because we’re busy showing off the best versions of ourselves to people we hardly know all over the country and the world.

So I’ve just drawn a line in the digital sand. I have deleted every contact that I have never met, don’t really know, don’t like, or haven’t seen or spoken to in years. I’ve resolved to get out more, try and engage the neighbours, and pick up the phone and use it for its originally intended purpose – to call, reach out, and hear a real human voice.

So who’s with me?

Derek Green,
Managing Editor (editor@thewestsider.com.au)



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