Every few months I do a little cleanup of my Facebook friends list. I go through the list of people and deliberate over whether or not my absence from their friends list would be noticed, as it has been at least 8 years since we spoke and we would have nothing to talk about now. And then I decide that since they have 883 people on their list already they would never know when or how it went down to 882. So I remove them from my list, in an attempt to keep it restricted to people I have personally met and actually spoken to.
Then I wonder, Have I really met that many (current tally: 454) people in my lifetime? And if I get rid of a good 20 people every few months, does that mean I’ve actually met more than 500 people in all my born days? And if, according to TNS Research, I know extremely few people by Malaysian standards, is it really possible for some to have known as many as 3087 (and counting) people in their lives? It’s no wonder they end up developing those bizarre Facebook habits we see and eventually have to hide; it must be exhausting having to keep up with so many other people who are simultaneously promoting the color of their underwear and ingredients of their lunch-hour sandwiches.
After reading the results of the TNS survey, which state that ‘Malaysians have the most buddies in online social networks’ — half of whom I’ll wager they don’t even know, a very disturbing fact in and of itself — I have to wonder if this curious knack for collecting ‘friends’ is somehow related to the same mental disorder/national epidemic that has people excessively self-promoting on Facebook — even going so far as to incriminate themselves when they’re malingering, creating false occupations and engaging in very public warfare. Is this some form of self-validation or self-gratification that makes them feel the need to be known, liked or even taken notice of, thus breeding the insincerity and patronizing behavior that are so often mistaken for friendliness? And is this what fuels the love for partying, dressing up and going out to be seen — channeling the Western culture, so to speak — that this country is so notorious for? It would appear so, if the numerous photo albums splashed across Facebook while nursing hangovers the next day are anything to go by.
The disturbingly unanswerable question is: Why do people do this? In this day and age of staggeringly advanced technology, where whole identities can be conjured online and nobody would be the wiser, are we simply trying to appear better than what we really are, and if so, to what end? When all the adulation has been soaked up and wrung dry, what else is there left to sell but ourselves, just the way we are?