The Best Friend I Never Knew I Had
Anyone remember Pokemon?
For those too old to enjoy the addicting but insanely repetitive pseudo-RPG for the Gameboy (or the later iterations in Nintendo’s wise quest to cash in on a fad), the goal of the game was relatively simple and stated boldly on the box – “Gotta Catch em all!” In this case, “it” referred to Pokemon, and by throwing a ball at a bunch of sickeningly cute creatures you could magically subvert them to your will, and in turn use THOSE creatures to catch even bigger, badder, and more doe-eyed creatures.
For a real kicker, observe just where these kids are entering Pikachu, perhaps the most famous of the Pokemon.
Although originating in Japan, the idea could not be more American – for no other reason than just to collect them ALL you went on this capturing rampage, dodging badly translated campy dialogue, capturing as many creatures as you could despite the fact you would most likley only benefit from a small percentage of them.
While Pokemon still persists today as an annoying TV show and half an isle in Toys r Us of overpriced toys, the concept has migrated to a new medium – Facebook.
In Facebook, one of the new self-promoting social websites that cropped up post 2000, the goal is simple and should sound eerily familiar. Start by finding friends, and through a simple user interface inviting them to be a part of your ‘community’. Once your supply of current friends is sought out, you instinctively move to your coworkers and add them. Once that battlefield is accomplished, loose acquaintances become your next targets, which in gateway drug fashion of course lead to searching high school friends, the cleaning lady that once spoke to you in the elevator for 2.3 seconds, and of course the nephew of the brother of the 2nd cousin of your 2nd grade football coach that you never actually met, but heard plenty about…because lets face it – no Facebook friend collection could be complete without THAT guy.
Meanwhile, like-minded souls creating their own wealth and store of Facebook friends will inevitably find YOU out, and out of respect for the capitalistic drive to conquer the landscape of friendship you of course acquiesce – becoming their Facebook friend.
It matters not if you don’t know these people. You might have heard of them ONCE back in high school when you ditched gym and overheard the principal talking about the bad kids? They worked for the same company you worked for two jobs ago and found one of your business cards wedged in the space heater? All reasons are good reasons, and on Facebook the language of friendship becomes a little looser, a little more distorted, and the normal bounds of allowed proximity remain safe through the barrier and shield that the Internet inherently provides.
So…the person who sat three rows behind you in third grade math just sent you a friend request – which you of course naturally accepted. Why?
It could be the fact that Facebook provides a relatively distant excuse to be myopic in a world that is increasingly empowering “1st world” populations to retreat within the castle of technology while simultaneously stimulating the need to CELEBRATE ONESELF. While modesty in the past has dictated social occasions, along comes Facebook, which boldly proclaims that not ONLY is every aspect, no matter how mundane, of your life super important to you, but it should also be super important to your following of disciple-like friends, which in turn only advance the feeling of self-importance. Have a thought? Post it on Facebook, because even Aunt Sue’s gardner cares that you had Cornflakes this morning instead of Cheerios.
It could be that capitalism, bred and inducted into all Americans since they crawl out of their mother’s womb, has let its natural mandate of excess and MORE so permeate our psyches that the concept of ‘friendship’ has been reduced from a nebulous concept to one more quantifiable, and subsequently numbers of interactions and friends replace more traditionally important concepts of friendship such as the quality and depth of your interactions.
Whatever the reason, people face a quandary when it comes to technology. The more connected we become – the more often you can email, text, or post on a Facebook wall – we become more connected and can easily keep in touch with more people as these tools provide both the facilitation of easier communication and the tools to track and manage these communications. Conversely, though, all of the afore mentioned activities are performed SOLO.
We text in our car. We pop in and out of Facebook throughout the day in order to post and respond to people’s comments. We send out and receive emails from the comfort of our cushy chairs with the speed of light.
In our technologically induced solitude, though, quantity replaces quality, and in our mad dash to reach 1,000 Facebook friends or exceed the storage capacity for contacts in our cell phones we lose something vital – technology is a tool, not an end, and while capitalism teaches us to embrace excess, sometimes more is somehow less.
Gotta catch em all right?
After all – your old college roommate from freshman year would just find it hilarious that you burnt the spaghetti somehow…right?