My Treatise on Facebook – What being my “Facebook Friend” means to me

Dear Facebook Friend:

Now that we are officially linked on Facebook, let me tell you my policy regarding what this means and what it does not. Before I begin, let me encourage you to not take anything I am about to say personally. It is not a comment about you. It is information about me. You are entitled to your own ideas and opinions and I think as well, that when you are done reading this, you will have more opinions than you do now. If so, for that reason alone, the effort I am making to write this will have been worth it. I’d love to live in a  world where far more people had more carefully thought out opinions.

First of all, by accepting my invitation or my accepting your invitation, this does NOT mean that we are Real Friends.

I only use facebook for professional purposes. I use it to have a public presence similar to my websites, to promote programs and ideas linked to my work and to allow people another means of staying in contact with me when it is helpful and or relevant to where I am and what I am doing in my life now.

Because this is solely professional to me, you can look at the two pictures I have put on my wall – one a professional portrait shot by a brilliant photographer I hired a few years ago named Kingmond Young, the other a photo of my daughter standing next to me on the shores of Lake Tahoe last Thanksgiving. You will notice that you can not see her face in the picture, just a silhouette taken from a distance. Only my Real Friends and those whom I otherwise designate, get to see a more intimate glimpse into my personal life, which includes pictures of my family.  I also understand that the moment I publish something on Facebook, two billionaires get access to it and can do what they want with it. That’s not okay with me. My guess is none of you have read the fine print in the agreement policy you have with Facebook.

So, I have that second picture up there solely because it represents that there is no separation between who I am and what I do, that I get how utterly insignificant any of us is the grand scheme of the universe and that I understand what is real and what is not.

Since this does not mean we are Real Friends, than what are we?

Good question. As far as I am concerned, we are what we are. There are only a few categories you can fit into in my life.

  1. Family.
  2. Relatives (different from family)
  3. Real Friends.
  4. Acquaintances I have some casual connection with
  5. People I knew years ago but who are no longer in my life in any meaningful and contemporary way (which is the bulk of people on my “facebook friends” list)
  6. Colleagues
  7. Clients

Here’s how to know if I consider you my real friend.

  1. We’ve had some meaningful exchange within the last year, and have regularly over all the years we’ve known each other. Thus our relationship is current based on who I am now and who you are now, not the shell of a person we were years ago.
  2. We aren’t only “friends” now because in a moment of nostalgia we thought of each other, or because we saw that another “friend” had recently reconnected with you so we did too.
  3. I could call you in need and ask for money, and you’d say yes without hesitation. I would do the same in return for you.
  4. I was invited to your wedding and/or meaningful life ceremonies, and you were/are invited to mine.
  5. We don’t bullshit each other when it comes to answering the questions “How are you?” And “What is going on?”
  6. If one of us posts something controversial on our Facebook walls, and we decide to respond with a differing opinion, we treat each other civilly, communicate in a respectful tone, and don’t just delete replies we disagree with. This is the same as it would be if we were having lunch and had a disagreement on an issue that was personally meaningful to us.
  7. You actually genuinely care about me and my well being, and I genuinely care about you and your well being. This is different than just wishing somebody well but truthfully not really thinking about them beyond that.
  8. When we communicate, you take as much an interest in getting to know my wife and daughter, as you do in me – AND  I want you to know about them and care about them.
  9. When we communicate, you ask about me and my life,  as much as you talk about yourself. When you ask about me, I want to share with you and feel it is appropriate to do so.
  10. Being together brings out the best in both of us. We never need to feel guarded or inhibited in each others presence or in our communications.
  11. We’ve stayed connected with each other even when it wasn’t easy or convenient, and the effort to do so has been mutual – not just one way.

If you can’t answer “yes” to all 11 of these, then we are not Real Friends. We are something else, and that is okay, it really is.

So, because this is used for professional purposes for me and we are not Real Friends, you can understand why I don’t respond to your IM requests on Facebook, why I delete your horoscope ads that show up on my wall or your corny comments on my wall, and why I otherwise ignore your updates that show up on my newsfeeds regularly. The fact is, I really don’t care enough about the relationship with you to put my time and energy into it, even though I do genuinely wish you well.

I’m 41 years old now, soon to be 42. I’ve lived long enough to know that life is impermanent, as people I grew up knowing and liking died at far too young of an age to make any sense. I’ve lived enough to have made substantial errors in my own judgment, enough that it cost me friends, opportunities and money I can’t get back. These vital errors also taught me to be far more humble, more mature and more careful – and they’ve helped grow me up.

I’ve lived enough to know that ultimately the only things that really matter to me and make any of this make sense are the qualities of the relationships I have and the quality and caliber of the impact my life has on the world. Ultimately the only question that seems to matter consistently to me is, “When I die, will it be said that the world was a better place that I was in it?”

Because of this, time and energy are the great limitations of my life. I must choose to use both wisely. Spending time chatting away idly with people with whom I have no real bond and no real relationship is a waste of life to me. Every minute spent doing it, is a minute I can’t get back.

I realize many people feel differently than me about this. They find this new means of reconnecting with people long since removed from their life to be a refreshing new realm of possibility to be connected in some satisfying and meaningful way. I think if being connected with me in a satisfying and meaningful way was really important to you, you would have done it with me all along, even when it wasn’t convenient like Facebook makes it.

I don’t know what the future holds for us and whatever relationship we will have. I do believe that some relationships are best left in the past. Others are worth revitalizing, updating and starting  afresh.

In the meanwhile. I hope that you find what I offer via Facebook of a professional nature is of value to you. I hope it piques your curiosity, engages your imagination, adds to your life and feeds your soul.  If, not, there is always some facebook application you can upload that might.

I wish you well. And to my Real Friends, let’s see each other soon. It has already been too long.

Best regards,

Jeffrey Leiken

San Francisco, CA

April 22, 2010

3 Responses to "My Treatise on Facebook – What being my “Facebook Friend” means to me"

  1. Does this mean that anybody who knew you growing up can never be a friend again?

  2. I can’t predict the future, but so far the evidence is that not a one of the 400 or so on the list have made any effort to become friends again. I even tried with a few and received no replies to my efforts. What about for you?

  3. Je tire mon chapeau!!

    I take my hat off!!

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