I have found a new topic of conversation for Small Talk occasions. This is something I look for constantly because I have never found Small Talk to come naturally to me. Deep Intense Enormous Talk I find relatively easy to jump into. But this is clearly not always appropriate for dinner parties, drinks parties or industry events.
My top three Small Talk topics up to now have been children, IT problems and if desperate, holidays (I can do football small talk but only at a very topline level – certainly no other sports). Now I have a new one. How many “friends” do you have on Facebook?
Is there an etiquette around this? Certainly there is a sense of intimacy about asking the question. Clearly it is not as intimate as asking about the number of sexual partners or what you get paid but it is noticeable that people are unsure whether to show off around the size of their answer or to apologise for its lack of scale. Fear not though, however small the size of your “friend” list you will dwarf mine (just 28). Unless of course the smaller the better – who knows ?
A quick review of my 28 “friends” reveals a surprising range of “friend” numbers between them. The largest number is that of a Facebook pro who you’d expect to have a big number (over 850). The smallest number of “friends” on my list can be claimed by a university chum who has even less friends than me (only 21).
My Facebook friends range from a distant relation (with whom I can only claim to have exchanged 3 words ever in real life), to professional colleagues, to my best friend when I was 19 who now lives in the far North. As the wonderful Fiona Dent at IPC pointed out my list is a bit like an awkward wedding where you’re not really sure if all the different groups there will get on, or if they will approve of what you say and what you’ve been up to.
The size of the number is relative to lifestage and intent of course, and if you’re an inner or outer directed person. And how friendly you are.
Teenagers of my acquaintance easily boast between 350 and 1000 “friends”. This may be driven by neurology and the fact that they’ve adapted more quickly than some of the rest of us. October’s issue of National Geographic (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/) explains that some brain-scan studies suggest that our brains react to peer exclusion “much as they respond to threats to physical health or food supply. At a neural level, in other words, we perceive social rejection as a threat to existence”. This may mean that acquiring as big a “friend” number as you can is key to survival.
I’d better start looking for more “friends”.