To Friend or Not to Friend

We talk about Facebook a lot: whether to be on it or not, what to post, and what not to post. A friend of mine gets herself in trouble by posting political comments that are offensive to the people she loves most – like her children and siblings, many of which are on the other side of the political fence.

            What I worry about is the demise of the word ‘friend.’ To friend or not to friend, as though ‘friend’ were a verb rather than a person you know, love, and trust with secrets and intimate conversation. And the new word ‘unfriend’: another verb that removes the possibility of reconciliation, resolution, and forgiveness between two people. You say something I don’t agree with – as though that’s a measure of friendship – and, click, you’re not my friend anymore.

            What we do on Facebook is not friendship. It’s entertainment. It’s like going to a cocktail party and answering the question, “what’s up?” I think the word ‘friend’ is the problem. ‘Acquaintance’ would be more accurate. But Facebook founders knew the word ‘friend’ has power. All of us want friends. The more the merrier, right? And when we post something, isn’t it intoxicating to see how many of our friends ‘like’ what we’ve shared? Haven’t we all been longing for others to like us since we were very young?

            I finally got an iPhone about six months ago. I’d been putting it off to save a few bucks – actually a lot more than a few. I have a couple not-too-rigorous rules I try to follow with it: I don’t carry the phone everywhere I go especially in the house (although it’s sitting next to me at the moment); I don’t do email on Sunday (it could be any day but Sunday’s generally quieter so I choose Sunday to quit the world); and I never go to Facebook from my iPhone. I save that for my laptop. Last week when I was finally getting around to linking my phone to iTunes I inadvertently deleted my contacts. It occurs to me now that ‘contact’ would be a good word to use instead of ‘friend’ on Facebook: “I’m contacting you.” “I’m uncontacting you.” That would work, and there’d be a lot less hurt feelings.

            Yesterday I learned something about my phone that will help me with my songwriting. When new songs are beginning to grow I record snippets of things for months if not years before they form into workable ideas. The iPhone has an app called Voice Memo that I’ve started using to record melodies when they come to me. I had fifteen or so short recordings stored in my phone, but I didn’t know how to get them to the computer in my studio, and I didn’t want to jam up my phone’s memory by leaving them there. I tried e-mailing them to myself but that didn’t work. So I started pushing buttons knowing Apple had already solved this problem and I just had to figure it out. Sure enough, it’s easy to move my audio doodles to my Dropbox account, which I can then access from any of my devices anywhere there’s Wi-Fi. Most of you probably know this already, but for me it was a miracle and a revelation. I’m so excited about it that I can feel a batch of new songs coming on. That alone makes the iPhone worth it.