Times of Oman
Sep 01, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 03:09 PM GMT
Are Facebook friends our real friends?
July 24, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Photo - Supplied

'I have 935 friends on Facebook, but only 5 in real life'. Are you one of them? Are real friends so hard to find in real life? As we are all set to celebrate Friendship Day on August 3, 'Thursday magazine' asks its readers  to share their views on, 'Are Facebook friends our real friends?

All about faces
Sandu Thisaranee Jayasinghe
Grade XII student of Sri Lankan School Muscat

Friends guide us in our life by identifying both the strengths and the weaknesses. Friends are also glad to share both your happiness and melancholy. "A friend in need is a friend indeed".

Friends have the most influence in shaping up your personality, in fact, even more than your parents. So it is crucial for us to find the correct ones.

How do we find a good friend? Generally, it is done by associating with people and analysing their personality, tastes and their attitudes. It is all about 'body chemistry…' the ability to accurately judge a person by their behaviour. Therefore it is vital for us to mix with the society and meet people face to face to know them in and out.

On the other hand in Facebook … how do we get to know a person through a small limited screen of a computer? How can we judge a person when all what we see is their posts and when all what's there to believe is what they say.

What we see on Facebook is the implied face of a person … a virtual mask that covers the reality. We tend to judge the person by what he posts and who his friends are. It is similar to an effort to judge the content of a book, by observing the cover … a cover that shows the authors' version. So many times we sit in front of the computer and regret our misjudgements…

Role of a friend in appreciating one's work is not just about pressing a 'Like' button under a poster of a photo. It is much more … it is about encouraging each other by truly appreciating one's quality; it is about giving advice when needed and patting on the shoulder when the work is done. Friends share.

But it's not only about sharing a post or a photo on Facebook. It is about being there to share the laughs as well as the tears. It's about sharing gifts, helps each and every moment in your life… and making new memories.  Facebook provides you with countless facilities to chat, share, and have fun with your friends. Nevertheless, a real friend will always try to find time to meet you in the flesh and use Facebook on a temporary basis. A genuine friend would like to meet you in person and open up about their feelings without being limited to a tiny chat box in a corner of the computer screen. If you are smart enough to not add strangers as friends on Facebook and clever enough to filter out the good from the bad … Facebook becomes the greatest tool that can be used by friends.

Just as the name suggests Facebook is about the faces… it is not an ideal place to make friends but to meet faces. However, it is a great platform to keep in touch with your close friends… a place to be a friend.

432 and still going…
Sharanya Krishnan
Grade X student of Indian School Muscat

You know what? 400 friends of mine liked my new display picture 'FB' (the colloquial usage for Facebook which is common amongst most of us). Such kinds of dialogues are quite commonly said by most of the youngsters who think they are moving forward with the newly set trends. Facebook is an excellent social networking website that allows people stationed at different parts of the globe to stay connected with their friends. The word 'friend' means a person whom you know very well, who knows you well and both of you mutually trust each other.

So, to make a friend is it enough that you chat a few lines with him/her or you just share your pictures on Facebook? "To be eligible to sign up for Facebook, you must be at least 13 years old," is what is given at the login page of facebook. Still I know several third grade and second grade children active on Facebook. How? Children discreetly enter their wrong date of birth which provides wrong information about them. And all the people living on this Earth do not always have good intentions.

In a short conversation with my friend about social networking sites, this is what I heard from her, "I have 432 friends on Facebook and I know only 75 of them." So what about the rest of the 357 people? Many teenagers and young adults get into this trap as their friends encourage them to do so. There is one common disease that is infecting young minds called MOOS! (Missing Out On Something). These children think that this would cause a drop in their social status in front of their friends. Such people have certainly no idea how much safer they are from evil minds. In fact excessive usage of Facebook and other websites is like putting your own hand into a lion's mouth waiting to be killed. Many of the children even get bullied by some of their so called Facebook friends but get scared to report such matters to their parents due to the fear of forcing them to logout of these sites.

Such is the spell of addiction that Facebook has casted on children and teenagers. Chatting and texting on Facebook has even caused many children to divert from their mainstream of studies. Another adverse effect is that certain posts on Facebook can pollute young minds and can lead to the loss of their innocence at a very tender age. As every coin has two sides, I am exactly not condemning social networking sites like Facebook. I had a classmate who left the city a few months back. I had no  contact with him until we got back into contact through one of the other social networking websites.

Sure, social networking is a wonderful medium that creates a beautiful bond with those people whom you think you will never be able to talk with ever. But each of us must realise that everything has a limit which we must keep up. As Mark Twain has said, "It's easy to quit smoking. I've done it hundreds of times." If Facebook is an addiction then it can choke a person to death just like smoking does but if we utilise it properly then it can bring old memories alive. Therefore we are the ones who chose whether to stay in touch with friends through Facebook or to make friends through Facebook.

When relationships are made and broken at the click of a button
Ankit Baral
Grade X student
of Indian School Wadi Kabir

There is a popular saying, sadly whose meaning is no longer understood, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." Today, with technological advancement and coming up of various social networking sites, the term 'Friendship' has undergone a drastic change. For the good or for the worse - that is for us to decide. The Internet defines friendship in the following way: "Friendship is a term used to denote cooperative and supportive behaviour between two or more people. In this sense, the term connotes a relationship which involves mutual knowledge, esteem, affection and respect and even a certain degree of service in times of need and crisis." But we all know there is a deeper meaning to friendship which cannot be expressed in mere words. But that is what the world has come to. It is not an uncommon sight to see children and adults alike stuck to their mobile phones and tablets busy chatting away. A person who has had the opportunity to live the last 50 years may have felt as if the ground was slipping under his feet — such is the speed of change that has engulfed the world. I remember sitting on my grandfather's lap as he told me how there was a time when people took the trouble of going all the way to another friend's house with goodies and greeting with genuine heartiness.

Today however relations are made and broken with the click of a button. Festive occasions, today, feel like mechanical dates rather than days of joy and warmth.

Then the question arises, 'Are Facebook friends our real friends?' Only time will decide the final verdict about the debate in this world, where people wear many faces. Facebook simply hides their identity, concealing their weaknesses and strengths. There are millions of people who visit Facebook every day without realising the very likely chance that they are being spied upon — be it by expert hackers or non-professional stalkers. Moreover friendship doesn't mean a bond certified by a social networking site. It means being there for each other in times of need and being able to give solace and comfort during hardships. Just to prove my point I would advise you to ask yourself this question, "How many friends do I have on Facebook that will be always there for me?"

I am not saying that we don't need friends on Facebook.  Of course it helps us communicate with friends in distant places — some of which may prove to be useful even though we may not know their identity. But can we ascertain the fact that these so-called friends will never turn against us? We give information about various things on Facebook, but how do we know that people may not take advantage of this and use it to our harm? You may hold your stand by saying that you have put a tight security on your account, but under whose confidence can you say your account is secure? According to me this global village we live in can by no means be called so. If it was a real village, then there would be no betrayals or crimes due to the Internet but it is not so. It may be that your real friends are your friends on Facebook too, but it is not necessary that your Facebook friends are your real friends.

'Friend' is more a misnomer on social networks
Vaidya Viswanathan
AGM –Powertech Engineering LLC

It is easy to be a disciplinarian dad at home but then, the same father has to be at the mercy of his children as he dishes out a 'friend' request and waits on tenterhooks for his request to be accepted by them.  'Friend' is more a sort of a misnomer for 'connection' on social networks, including Facebook.  It is true that they are great platforms to keep in constant touch with our best friends, rediscover lost friends, expand and gain more friends in real life, but they can be more than that, for better or worse.
Apart from close friends and family members, connections on Facebook can be people who are interested in us or people whom we are interested in. To delve a bit deeper, there are people we add as friends because they belong to a common circle that we are part of – same school, university, workplace and so on. These connections are usually indicated by a large number of mutual friends.  Sometimes we know them well and at other times, we know they exist but not at a personal level.  Any way, we add them because we tend to treat them as familiar people. A slight extension of this idea is linking up with people who belong to a community or a fan club and share common interests. These could be even people who play a social game like Ingress — a global augmented reality multiplayer game where one pitches in to save the world. Other people might add us as friends because they are interested in us. Our network grows despite the fact that we hardly know about twenty to thirty per cent of our friends on Facebook.

A large network comes with oodles of goodies. We can quickly reach many people, thus opening up the floodgates — to do smart marketing or  ask for a help or reach out to mentors. In turn, it also allows several people to access us. Alas, all these endless possibilities of positives must be taken with a grain of salt. Our pictures, posts and profile can be misused and privacy eroded.  Some connections are uninteresting and some are fake.  They can be disturbing by being stalkers and even lure us into unwanted conversations. There are the others who spread hatred and rumours
merely for spite. 

Like any great tool, Facebook puts great power in the hands of its users through its concept of 'Friends'.  It can take you to great heights, or bring you down in the blink of an eye. But used with discretion, it can be a catalyst for change, the magnitude of an Egyptian revolution, again for better or worse. (With inputs from my daughter V. Madhumitha,  an active Facebook user and who was gracious enough to accept my 'friend' request after an incubation period of one year !)

Small list but all are true friends
Vandana Pradeep Kumar

I feel grateful that Facebook exists. It has made staying con­­nected with friends so easy and interesting. I remember the invitation to join Facebook had come from a business associate. I took plenty of time to decide and finally joined it. I have made it a point to get connected only with known people.  I have 54 friends on Facebook. My list of friends consists of family members, close friends and their children, my teachers and business associates and their children.

Since my friends are known to me personally, even outside Facebook, there is a great deal of trust displayed while sharing what's happening in our lives. I know that my friends are real and I have really been lucky to have them in my life. Since I am connected to my true friends on Facebook, I can claim that most of my Facebook friends are real. There are few business associates and some acquaintances on my Facebook friends list. There is a different way in which I connect to them. I strongly feel that becoming friendly with a total stranger is foolish and dangerous on any social networking site.

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