Friday, April 16, 2010

Facebook : We Are All Celebrity Gossip Hacks Now

A friend of mine has changed their facebook relationship status from single to in a relationship. Among the list of congratulatory comments, several of her friends are asking for the details. I am genuinely pleased for her, but feel no need to know any details, until such time as she is ready to put them out there. New relationships need safe space, if they are to have a fighting chance. But we have all become celebrity gossip hacks now.

Unless I should take the high moral ground, just the other day another friend posted that they are moving continent in six weeks time. And immediately I messaged them to ask, where are you moving to? We are all celebrity gossip hacks now, wanting all the latest news as it happens.

Now, some people use facebook status as a means to fish for such a response. Pity me’s. Attention-seekers. But facebook is primarily a network of weak ties – people we don’t see face-to-face or talk to on the phone on a regular basis. Some of our facebook friends are acquaintances, or even friends (or acquaintances) of friends. Some are really close friends, for whom facebook simply reinforces other connections between us. But the majority are weak ties: genuine, but not close, friends. And weak ties are really important, because they widen the circle of contacts and possibilities of sharing skills and information available to us: Moving to Coffeeville? Looking for a church there? Check out St Arbucks – I was at college with the curate there, and can recommend them.

It is entirely appropriate that news filters out. That there are things that we want all of our weak ties to know...but they don’t need to know everything, yet. In fact, in some cases, for them to know everything at once is unhelpful. There is a balance. Take pregnancy, for example: a history of miscarriage causes people to announce that they are going to have a baby later than before...which makes sense – it is hard to send out news that retracts previous news, and even more so when you can’t guarantee that everyone who got the news will get the retraction - and yet, in this instance, it would seem all the more important to tell close friends early, so they can pray for protection.

Hopefully we have close friends with whom we are able to share our news more fully, or at least earlier, than we do with our weak tie relationships. And yet, weak tie relationships are important, too. It is right that we keep those friends in touch with the developments in our lives; and it is right that those of us hearing the news understand how to respond: allowing our friend to put out news at their own pace...saying ‘no’ to the pressure to be celebrity gossip hacks now.

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