While Facebook began as an exclusive site for young college kids, its reach has expanded far beyond that. With the worldwide social network now boasting more than 1.28 billion users, the concept of what it means to friend someone seems to be lost on most people.
Which is exactly why 35-year-old Army vet Mikel McLaughlin is asking: What does it mean to be Facebook friends? He’s hoping to find an answer during his cross-country quest to meet every single one of his friends on the online platform. The law school graduate set out on his journey April 2, documenting his story on his website, “We’re Friends, Right?
McLaughlin, a Minnesota native, came up with the idea after hearing about people applying some “spring cleaning” to their social network. Rather than deleting people he hadn’t spoken to in awhile, he wanted to do the opposite.
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“Originally, the thought was I wanted to test the friendships I had on Facebook to see how close they were to traditional friendships,” McLaughlin told the Good News Blog. “If I could travel great distances to see these people, would they give me an hour or two of their time?”
But he’s found something more than that while traveling across the country in a rented red Volkswagen Beetle. Along the way, he’s managed to make new friends, including people he wasn’t exactly sure why they were connected on Facebook.
“I had absolutely no idea who he was or why we became Facebook friends in the first place”, he wrote on his blog. “Today, we figured it out together.”
Now on day 36, McLaughlin is about a third of the way through his network of 422 friends. While he admits he was previously friends with one out of every four Facebook friends, he’s hoping to turn some of his virtual acquaintances into real friends.
“I think if I can meet up with these people, I know spending time with them makes you more likely to be compassionate…I thought if I could be a little better perhaps everybody could be the same.”