The Book I’d Like to Write: 373 Friends

At the last count, I had 373 Facebook friends.

There is more than sixty years difference between my youngest and oldest friends. A dozen of them are related to me. There are seven Sarahs, and three Tims, but only one Wendy.

Some of them are people I went to school or university with, and some of them are former colleagues. There are a lot of fellow mums, journalists, and poets. Three of them are people with whom I shared a tent on the Arctic ice sheet. A small handful of them are people I know through online communities – parenting and photography – who I’ve never actually met.

My friends include several MSPs, one MP, and a former US Congressman. One of my friends made news around the world for disrupting Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Jewish Federation General Assembly, while another once superglued themselves to a British Prime Minister. One of my friends has featured in a Blackberry advert, and one of them turned down the opportunity to go on Oprah.

I have a friend that has survived a broken neck; a friend that has stood and looked up at a full moon while actually talking to Neil Armstrong; a friend that has shaken hands with Desmond Tutu; and a friend that has dined at Buckingham Palace on more than one occasion. Actually, now that I think about it, that’s all the same person. More about him later…

Every single one of my Facebook friends is a fascinating person, with a full life and many interesting stories to tell, but recently I’ve become very sadly aware of what a small proportion of them I ever sit down and chat with, face-to-face. My online community bears very little relation to my geographical community.

So DorkyDad and I have agreed, that should we ever have the chance, we’ll take eighteen months out of our lives to go and visit every single one of our Facebook friends. We’ll sit and drink wine, late into the night, and discover what makes our friends tick. We’ll sleep on their sofas, browse their bookshelves, and scratch the bellies of their cats and dogs. We’ll do all the things that friends used to do, when they weren’t too busy playing Farmville and poking each other. It’ll take a lottery win, or some other unexpected windfall*, so it probably won’t happen. But it’s nice to dream.

In the meantime, we are starting small, and just making a point of reconnecting with as many friends as we can. I’ve got a coffee lined up with one of those MSPs, and a playdate at the park with some of the mums. We’re planning a picnic next weekend with a couple we don’t see very often, and a holiday next month to visit some of our family, who will be meeting DorkySon for the first time. We can’t wait.

Don’t get me wrong, for keeping up to date with the bare bones of what’s going on in the lives of my 373 friends, Facebook is fine. I love to see photos of babies growing up, cousins getting married, and friends taking holidays in the sun. But seeing those people for real – stepping into their warm hello-hugs at the airport – would be so much better. I’ll keep buying those lottery tickets in the hope that I can make it happen.

*Like a publishing deal! Wouldn’t 373 Friends make a great book? Dave Gorman has probably already done it, but I’d be so interested in reading a travelogue where someone actually went to visit all of his or her friends and then wrote a short profile of them all.  Perhaps I’m just inherently nosey though. Hmm… let me know what you think, publishing friends.