I don’t know my friends

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I GUESS I deserve pity for some of the habits I am forming now that I am younger – I am making friends in ways that I can neither understand nor explain. I woke up one afternoon to note, according to Facebook, that I had almost 5,000 friends. Impossible, I almost shouted myself to more alertness.

What could have happened? Did people take liberty with my friendship list while I slumbered? How could I possibly know 5,000 people, or more truthfully, 4,997 people? The shock led to an investigation.

I wanted to know these friends. Since the circumstances of our affinity were entirely beyond me in most cases, I sought other ways to know how I knew them. Schools, church (es), friends by proxy (I assume you know what that means), mentors, mentees, foes, fiends, traitors, in-laws (outlaws, the opposite)? No possible explanation could turn up 4,997 people across regions, religions and relations.

One approach I decided on was to balance my friendship list. I also knew that some of them could be gender-less, the new definition for gender orientations that were so transient, that their converts opt for genderlessness, a choice that leaves them able to move to other gender offshoots, as their spirit wills.

Nobody needed to tell me that I was in trouble. Well, it turned out that the trouble tripled when I made a physical examination (unlike the Customs) of the list of my 4,997 friends. The picture, posture, and posturing told me a more complicated story.

Everyone looked beautiful, though there were instances of those who were decidedly ugly. They scared me. Another class had no pictures; maybe they were too pretty to show their faces. I waded through the list and some of the pictures appeared to elicit my understanding.

I could almost hear some peering into my eyes saying, “So you want to ‘unfriend’ me?” I petulantly replied, “No, I only want to ‘defriend’ you.” “Defriend” is a better opposite of “befriend” whatever Elliot (I tend to refer to Zuckerberg with his second name to brand myself away from the Mark crowd) thinks.

My work was cut out: cut the list. Hundreds fell on my right, left, and centre. I still had thousands to go. I suddenly realised how un-engaged I was. How many people go through such a long list without a purpose? I had a purpose, I warned myself.

I wanted to take charge of my life again. I wanted to know my friends. I wanted to know those who know me and who would want to know me. What further purpose did I need for the exercise? When I got 1,000 ‘de-friended’, I was almost triumphant.

The list remained unwieldy. I did another 1,000 and I felt better. At a point I thought I kept hearing my dad’s injunction as we formed our habits in primary school, “Know your friends”. I never went to a school that had 5,000 students, until much later in life. I never had more friends than I could know.

Not even the ameliorating caveat, “We are friends on Facebook”, saves the day when I deal with the inordinate cravings of having many friends; friends whom I do not know. I can also say that they do not know me.

Something else bothered me. Ngwa wisdom told us that you called people “my friend” if you did not know their name. I have come to the halting conclusion that the ancients were right. I want to call my friends by name, their names.

PS: Nothing in this suggests that you cannot make friends on Facebook. I have made some but definitely not 4,997!

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