Facebook has redefined the word "Friend." According to the site, I have 531 such individuals and that number keeps changing. Should I believe the site when I only speak to three people per week other than family? Don't get me wrong, I am thankful to be connected with so many incredible individuals and to learn about new people every day. Some of these "friends"are folks that I've worked with or met briefly, like the woman on the airplane or the man who referred a project my way. This makes sense when you think about it since Facebook is a "social networking site," but maybe we should bear in mind that the old definition of the word no longer applies.
Socialite Esther Silber, who is sometimes referred to as "Coco" or "Esther Coco Silber," has 1,450 friends on Facebook. I heard about her when a Facebook group formed petitioning her return to the site amidst a brief hiatus. Her goal was to concentrate her creative energies elsewhere, but the group succeeded and reeled her back in. Known for intriguing updates about event planning and her to-die-for social life and fashion sense, people who don't actually know her would like to. I too admit it is like a fascination with TMZ or Perez Hilton reading her page, except that given her background, she could have gone to my Jewish schools and therefore, for me, she's relatable!
Silber doesn't know many of her "friends" but she does meet a hell of a lot of people in her business and constant travels. She is also a philanthropist and has used Facebook to spread the word about charitable organizations and a triathlon she ran to raise funds for Israeli terror victims. She was recently mentioned in the New York Post when Henry Kissinger hit on her at the Four Seasons - Many of her Facebook friends commented on the article online, like one who wrote "I know Esther very well and not only is she beautiful outside but she is more beautiful inside." Now that's a socialite who not only has helped to redefine "friend" but "socialite."
I am personally thankful to have so many "friends" on Facebook. I really am. I've always thought of myself as entirely unphotogenic, so it's definitely ego-boosting to hear "Great picture!" or (less preferable) "glad you chopped off the mullet!" Friends are also there to listen to your rants - I mean "status updates" - and your raves (SUs again), or when there's no one else to look at the mobile pic of your chiauhaha/goldfish or the raccoons in your backyard. Inevitably, someone will comment and make your day hunky dory.
Here's what comedian Elon Gold had to say about our Facebook relations: "..With the press of a button, kids have friends nixing power. To accept or ignore, that is the question of the day. Rejecting is mean. Ignoring, that's just soul crushing!"
To the girl from high school who ignored my friend request, you know who you are, and I agree with Elon. And it's not just kids today - We elderly folks are also on Facebook (and by "elderly," I refer to anyone who, like me, was born before 1978). When one hits "ignore," another ends up feeling like an idiot (and hey, what did I do to you anyway?!). Perhaps the word "kids" is key here - We end up reverting to childlike behavior when we become virtual snobs.
While I think we certainly have a right to be discerning (remember that story about the Facebook robbery? Someone posted they would be away and one of their "friends" ended up burglarizing the house), there's no need to act haughty online. Esther Silber is a great example of someone who embraces folks from all walks of life on Facebook. We're glad she abandoned that hiatus. When she ran her triathlon months ago, the charity she supported received numerous substantial donations online and raised thousands from the people who admire her from afar.
Follow Shira Hirschman Weiss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ShiraWeiss