Facebook, for those of you who don't know, currently has a rule in place that limits users to 5,000 friends or less. And according to the New York Times, this is a serious bummer for certain people.
I'm used to cringing while reading the Times' Style section, so I can't say I was surprised by the amount of eye-rolling and wincing that accompanied my reading of today's entry into Style files: "Are 5,001 Friends Too Many?" The piece, written by Aimee Lee Ball, focuses mainly on the woes of Facebook-using men who feel that the 5,000 friend limit is holding them back from being as popular as they can be. The men, who range from professors to CNN's Jeffrey Toobin, complain about the pressures of reaching 5,000, and how they have to cull their friend lists just to stay under the limit.
It becomes clear, in reading the article, that many of the "friends" collected by the subjects of the piece are actually students or fans, and the men are using Facebook as a tool to promote projects, which is typically how a Facebook "fan" page—which comes without friend limits— is set up to work. Yet none of these men seem thrilled about the idea of switching over into the "fan" realm, and at least one of the men, Chris Brogan, claims that he finds the concept of a personal fan page embarrassing, noting, ""I feel like Sally Field: ‘You like me, you really like me.'" Interestingly enough, Brogan also tells the Times that his current Facebook "friend" list, which stands at 4,801, is a reversal of his school day popularity status: "I went through school with little popularity, and no one was proud to be my friend. Now it's a strange badge to wear." Translation: "I don't want to get a fan page because I want to keep believing that all 4,801 of my current Facebook friends are actually my real friends, and I want everyone I went to school with to believe that too."
The saddest part of the article, to me, anyway, is that the men involved seem to believe that people are impressed by their high Facebook friend counts. Is anyone really impressed by such a thing anymore? Were they ever? Anyone who knows anything about social networking can easily spot the difference between someone who actually interacts with the thousands of followers on their list and someone who simply "collects" friends to appear popular in some weird attempt to validate themselves in adulthood following a not-so-popular adolescence. The entire Times piece was just another embarrassing way for these dudes to remind everyone that they're popular—too popular, even—and that we should all care very much about their inability to handle the raging crowds who want nothing more than to friend them. These dudes are desperate for the limit to be lifted, and it's fairly obvious why: 5,000 friends, I guess, still aren't enough to fill whatever hole was created in middle school.