The independent news organization of Duke University

Gaining face at Duke

It’s only the first day of school, and already I’m way behind. It’s not like I’ve been slacking off. I went to all the student send-off parties and I pre-registered for all my classes. I read The Kite Runner. But I feel as if I’ve missed something, as if I haven’t been able to capitalize on the opportunities offered to me.

I suspect this has something to do with facebook.com.

To say that I agonized for hours before crafting my profile is a misstatement. In reality, I agonized for hours after crafting my profile. I stared at the page for upwards of an hour, wondering what I needed to tweak. Was there anything that would scare people off? Was there something I forgot to add? Should I have been more formal, or more flippant? Other profiles didn’t answer these questions for me. They were all different, in both style and substance; I figured I was the only one who obsessed over such details.

As a freshman, I am in that first stage of a relationship with facebook. I keep on discovering new and amazing things about it every day. Hey, it lets you look up people with your same interests! Wow, it reminds you of other people’s birthdays! But one thing facebook won’t automatically do for you is get you friends. Currently, I have 41 facebook friends at Duke, which at one point, I felt was quite respectable. That was before I started observing that others had more friends than I had. Way more. I am, it seems, much farther behind in this friend-making race than I had previously thought.

I’ve learned that it’s not unusual for ’09ers to have 100 or more friends and for upperclassmen to have far more. I realized this after doing some quick calculations. The average number of friends my own friends have is 151. This means I myself am in the lowest 10th percentile, a fact that I (competitive? me?) dearly lament. I have one friend who has 767 facebook friends, which I was willing to accept before I realized she arrived on campus the same time I did. This girl supposedly knows almost half of East Campus.

All of this brings up the question of the purpose and meaning of a friend. If someone “friends” you on facebook, and you haven’t met him or her before, how does he or she qualify as a friend? I’ve always wondered if this person is even an acquaintance at that point. If you introduce someone as your “facebook friend,” what are you saying? Would you put your life in their hands, or would you hesitate to give them $5 for lunch? And how about those with hundreds of facebook friends? I wonder if they even know all their friends by name, or even by sight. And yet, despite the semantics and the social complexity, I am envious of their situation.

It seems to me that there are three facebook approaches. One is to go on the offensive, to cast your line for friends and see who bites. On the other hand, one can use a profile as a résumé and wait passively for friends to emerge. The third approach, the middle ground, mirrors that of a turtle, reaching out to snap up the odd friend or two but more or less remaining content inside a comfortable facebook shell. I’ve tried the passive approach, but it would appear that this isn’t the “big numbers” method. Maybe I’m too much of an introvert to find myself hundreds of friends.

Or maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Coming straight from high school, I’m used to quantifying things. Everyone was compared to everyone else by way of AP scores, SAT scores and ACT scores. The higher the number, the more impressive you were. Perhaps the big numbers are no longer that important. Instead of quantity, quality may be the prevailing factor.

But then again, I’m just a freshman. What do I know? I’d be more than happy to receive opinions on the subject. After all, you can easily contact me. On facebook.

James Tager is a Trinity freshman.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Gaining face at Duke” on social media.