“Can I friend you? Is that okay?” my coworker. Lindsay asked one of our colleagues, Ryan.
His answer was yes, and Lindsay said, “Okay good. Now our friendship can be official.”
I wiped off the metal counter next to the ice cream machine and thought about the conversation I just heard. Can I friend you? I thought they were already friends. Of course, I knew what Lindsay meant. She asked Ryan if she could send him a friend request on Facebook. And apparently that meant they were really friends. The physical, tangible world didn’t mean enough.
They had to make their friendship official in the virtual world by using a social media platform.
That was seven years ago when I worked at a fast food restaurant in my hometown. I didn’t have a Facebook profile back then and didn’t ever want one. My friends insisted though, and one day my best friend, Alex, sat next to me during lunch and helped me set up a Facebook account.
Then the friending began.
You see, being friends face-to-face in the physical world, doesn’t mean as much as being friends on Facebook, or these days Snapchat and Instagram. After my Facebook was set up, I felt more connected to people and even chatted with some people I would never talk with in person.
This friending game became fun. I could chat with people and know about people’s lives a lot more on Facebook than in the real world.
I didn’t realize the epidemic of virtual lives taking over reality until I arrived at BYU-Idaho.
I was a cute, little second-semester freshman taking classes and trying to get along with roommates. It was winter semester when everybody is cold and starting to crave cuddling. I started liking a guy in my ward, and after about two weeks of going on dates and hanging out, he and I started exclusively dating.
He was the first guy I held hands and cuddled with. Touching guys more than a hug was off-limits for me in high school. I knew the prophets counseled against steady dating in high school, and getting comfortable with a guy only meant trouble at that age. When I first came to college, I was inexperienced with dating and social media norms.
“Did you put it on Facebook? Did you change your relationship status?” my roommate asked.
I hadn’t even thought about it.
“Well, then your relationship isn’t official yet.”
What? In order for my relationship with this guy from my ward to be real, I had to publicize it on Facebook? It was ridiculous.
Two years later, I succumbed to the social norm, and when I started dating a guy, we changed our relationship status a day later. We broke up after two months — we changed our relationship status to single. Seven weeks later, I decided I was miserable without him, so I dated him again — we changed our relationship status again. About a month later we broke up again and changed our relationship status to single, once again.
It was a mess. Letting the whole world know when we were dating and single didn’t help. After the second break-up, it was final. No more dating for us, so no more status changes.
People post about their lives on Facebook.
I constantly see pictures of couples getting engaged and married and babies being born.
I like being updated. I like knowing about my friends’ travels and adventures.
However, the relationships that matter to me most are the people with whom I share hugs, smiles, tears and conversations with in the real world. These friendships are official.
They are more official than seeing a smiling picture on Facebook.