About six months ago, I reached the point where the people whom Facebook thought I might know were ones I didn’t. This bothered me then, and still does now.
According to Facebook, I have 369 “friends.” Yes, yes, I know most of these people, but I only really know a handful of them. My overall list ranges from old high school classmates to high school students I now have in class; in between are a few friends from college, several others from years in Colorado, a bunch of seminary folks, a few acquaintances from church, and various and sundry individuals who I’ve never met but still felt guilty about not “approving” them when their friend request came in.
One could call it “forced friendship” – like what a shotgun wedding must feel like (minus any responsibility and, well, the shotgun) – but it’s really neither (forced or friendship). The sooner we come to understand this, the better we might realize that we are the ones to blame for our superficial idea of what being a friend means.
I used to not approve requests from people I didn’t know – at least not without a quick message back asking how we knew each other. I stopped doing this as it seemed too snobbish, but I’m not sure the alternative has any more integrity. Is it better to seem accessible to people you have no reason or plan to engage with, or do you say “thanks, but no thanks” on the front end, perhaps coming off a little precocious at the beginning, but at least authentic to actual reality?
For most of us, our teleology tends to have everything to do with the value of Facebook (or any other social network on the Internet, for that matter), but it seems there should be a more humanity-valuing principle and approach to the dilemma than just a utilitarian/egoistic tendency regarding it. Where’s Socrates when we need him?
What would Jesus do? Would Jesus accept all Facebook friend requests, or would he only accept ones from those he chose? The analogy breaks down from a theological perspective (at least from a Calvinist systematic), as only those whom Jesus initially chose would choose to add him as a friend anyway, so never mind.
Forget the question of stealing bread to feed your family; never mind the ethical intricacies of mercy killing and war. To accept Facebook friend requests or not – and then whether to secretly “unfriend” later – this is what this ethics teacher wonders.