Alex Beam

Friends without benefits

(AP Photo/Noah Berger)

I see that Facebook has instituted gradations of friendship, or, as we say in the 21st century, “friendship.”

With a few mouse clicks, Facebook allows you to trifurcate your contacts into three categories: friends, close friends, and acquaintances. Best of all, your pals and/or erstwhile pals won’t get to see how you have categorized them.

It’s a start. I’m happy to see that Facebook is finally tackling the thousand-layered reality of genuine social interactions. I hope they will follow up on this promising beginning.

Many obvious new categories suggest themselves: Friends You Hid In The Bathroom To Avoid In High School; People You See Once Or Twice a Year And That’s Just Fine; or That Woman Who Said Something Nice About Your Dog So You Have To Stop And Chat, If Only Briefly.


Then there is the category of Friends You Wish Would Stop Posting About the Progress (or Lack Thereof) of Their Uninteresting New Book That You May Hypocritically “Like” But That You Have No Intention of Reading. These posts must clutter up at least a dozen server farms in Lower Slobbovia, or wherever Facebook owns storage space.

Authors love to post photos of a stack of manuscript pages (“First draft!”), or, worse, bore you to death with tales of “writer’s block.” Carl Hiaasen, the novelist and Miami Herald columnist, once observed that “writer’s block” is known as “unemployment block” in the newspaper trade.

My ink-stained friends, by which I mean my actual friends, and I, who got handed stories to write at 4 p.m. for a 6 p.m. deadline, are not a sympathetic audience for these tales of woe.

Assuming they soldier past the many obstacles to publication, Facebooking authors inevitably post their dowdy cover when it emerges from some art director’s computer (“Looks great!”) and finally, innumerable posts about the book itself. With negative reviews carefully de-curated, of course.


It’s like, OMG, does Stephen King do this? (OMG, yes.) Can you imagine William Shakespeare on Facebook? “Hive mind: Which play title do you prefer — ‘Twelfth Night’ or ‘What You Will’?” He chose the former title, as you know. Or this: “Burbage wants to cut the ghost scene from ‘Macbeth’ — Sad!”

Other tiers of “friendship” suggest themselves: Friends Whose Odious Political Views I Am Willing To Sample Every Month Or So Just To Make Me Feel Superior, or Friends With Whom I Can Conveniently Interact On Facebook So I Can Avoid Them in Real Life.

With millions of deceased users, Facebook will soon have to introduce yet another friendship category: Do Not Resuscitate. These would be Friends I Don’t Want to Meet in Heaven or Anywhere Else For That Matter. Starting with — never mind.

Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.