Facebook is Awkward
A couple years ago, I received a “Friend Request” accompanied by an overly revealing private message from a man who I hadn’t seen since elementary school. His confession explored some latent emotions he had once felt for me as a child, which I found, both charming and disturbing. More interesting, was that he had equated my online persona with someone he once knew.
And who we are online is clearly a distorted version of reality.
Anyway, this was at the dawn of my Facebooking and I had just begun to understand and navigate the “Friend Request.” Still, I wanted to be honest. In an attempt to create transparency in this bizarre new world of online social networking, I sent him the following response:
I appreciate your taking a vested interest in my life, despite the reality that we have not seen each other since 4th grade. I don’t have to remind you, that was nearly two decades ago. Though I do not remember you, you seem to have a very vivid memory of me as a 10-year-old. As captivating as I am sure I was, there are some things that you may want to know about me before you invite me to be your adult “friend.”
Revelation 1: I drink too much, and, in fact, pissed off a lot of people at my birthday last week, including the guy I am seeing who I refuse to call my boyfriend because I have commitment issues and apparently cannot find happiness with the attention of one (even the most deserving) individual.
Revelation 2: This “aura” you mention may confuse creative expression with self-absorbed loftiness (a.k.a. narcissism), which has a direct correlation with my uncontrollable ego. I should have you know that this has proven to be strictly problematic in my life. I am not a compellingly tragic artist, but rather inconsolably disappointed and self-loathing in my lack of accomplishment. This pattern has mounted a rash of addictive and generally self-destructive behaviors (see Revelation 1).
Revelation 3: I am characteristically paralyzed by self-doubt… though this seems to have also been a catalyst for me. Despite any productive behavior that has manifested from my constant need to prove myself, I assure you that throughout my adult life this will not rest and I will remain in constant need of attention to substantiate my self-worth. If you are interested in pursuing a friendship, I may require you to remind me of how great I am and continue to be.
While you are thinking about me innocently perched on a swing or seductively consuming a Snack Pack, I think you should consider the spurious reality of my jaded and ego-driven adult life. This response is not intended to destroy any illusions you may have or dissuade you from an outpouring of emotion evoked by your memories of youthful skin or my very contrived Facebook page. By all means, remind me of what a hopeful child I must have been. I will try not to translate the illusions you have indicated into failed potential.
This quaint record and advanced litany of imperfections is not intended to diminish the potential for any adult “friendship.” I don’t know you and, in fact, I don’t remember what you look like, but since you seem to find me so appealing, I am sure that we could engage in a perfectly tender and possibly enduring bond (virtually, of course).
Facebook is becoming a leading cause of divorce, in part, because it is an easy way to catch cheaters, but, more dangerously, it allows people to seek out their pasts, to consider old fantasies, and to invoke them when we are feeling lonely, lost, or disconnected from real life.
Online images and the comforting presence of our past can serve us, when historically, those images, like the people in them, would have been, as my mother used to say, “out of sight, out of mind.”
In addition to the fact that Facebook is not an *actual* depiction of who we are (however we like create a version of self through photos, captions, or status updates), it is also a very strange way to “be” in the world.
Lately, it feels that more and more often, Facebook floods our inboxes with all kinds of unwanted “friendships,” many of which seem guided by ulterior motives, others are just downright inappropriate.
I had anticipated that over time, some etiquette would surface, working out the obvious kinks and over-enthusiastic “Friending.” Turns out, Facebook is just getting more awkward.
Feel free to use some form letters I created for the sake of ease and transparency in the world of online social networking!
Message to the Friend of Friend (i.e. A Stranger)
Until now, I was unaware that someone could actually succeed at being generic. Nice work! Thank you for posting pictures of the dinner you were about to eat! I also really enjoyed your most recent status update—I had no idea it rained in Chicago! Also, the way you described rush hour was, indeed, captivating. I am so glad we are (back?) in touch!
Message to an Estranged Friend
So, you married _________, you are working at ________, and you live in _________. According to your last status update, “Life is good!” I am going to take that one at face value and assume you were not being sarcastic. Based on the bulk of your excessively earnest status confessions, your overstated politics, and the obvious fact that ironic humor has been lost on you, I have come to appreciate that our real-life friendship did not last.
Interestingly, I will probably watch your children grow up virtually, but never meet them in real life. Ironically (go on, look it up!), our newly established Facebook friendship has comforted me: I know now that I will never, ever see you again.
And that, “my friend,” is clearly, for the best.
Message to a Co-Worker
It was one thing when you stopped by my cube and asked me about my weekend. I even listened compassionately that day when you were bitching about your break-up with __________. Yes, last week I agreed to get coffee with you when shit was slow. All of this seemed like a perfectly normal office acquaintance.
I just saw your Friend Request.
This is what I have to say to you: Really? Did you have to? Do I even have a choice? I would love to hit “Decline,” but that is going to be super awkward and you are definitely the kind of douchebag that would ask for an explanation. Thanks a lot!
Why? Why did you have to find me on FB? (Shaking fist!)
I suppose you think I should be grateful for your efforts to establish a “personal” relationship out of the office.
But, seriously—are you spying on me?
Message to an Ex
If I accept this friend request, does that mean our relationship was as meaningless as this FB connection? If so, count me in!
Well, let’s admit it, we are not friends. Arguably, we hate each other. But, by mutually establishing our virtual “friendship”, we can better convince ourselves (and each other!) how thoroughly “over it,” we are.
This passive/aggressive posting and messaging is going to be awesome! And, of course, I am judging you! As, I know you are me.
It’s a good thing we have FB to remind us how terrible we were together.
Really, I am so glad we are mature enough to be “friends.”
Message to That Guy From the Coffee Shop
When you asked me for my number and I said, “No,” I thought that would be a pretty clear indication that I did not want to interact with you. Evidently, you distinguish “actual rejection” from “virtual rejection” and you managed to online stalk me all the way into my inbox.
For your efforts, I’ll take it. But don’t even think this means you can sit at my table.
Message to the Estranged Cousin
Wow! I heard that you had disappeared somewhere in Mexico, so it was a shocking relief to see that you weren’t dead! It looks like some of your legal troubles have cleared up. And, I’m really glad that the sex offender registry isn’t a total buzz kill! Watch out for the school zones (heyyyooo!).
Also, it appears as though you were able to get some tooth implants since I last saw you—lookin good!
Please don’t be offended that I am not going to list you as my “cousin.”
Really, it’s not you, it’s your felon status.
Message to a Grandparent
Not that I wasn’t ecstatic to see that someone who was alive circa Hitler figured out how to use Facebook, but I must admit, I was a little confused when I saw your full name, not simply, ________, the name I have called you since before I graduated from the anal stage.
I had no idea your full legal name was _____________ ___________________ __________________.
No really, I had to do some serious research to figure out who you were.
Also, I thought that Fox News had scared you out of using the Internet?
In any event, welcome!
I hope that you use FB to keep us updated on your ailments—Mom says your hemorrhoids are a pain in the ass (no pun intended). Also, please ignore my friend, _______. Those posts are definitely not representative of our routine banter—usually we are joking about puppies and sports, not circle jerks and rape!
Oh, and don’t ask me what “circle jerk” means. Remember how awkward it got when I said you shouldn’t use the expression “pearl necklace” so loosely?
Also, if you could, please refrain from using racial epithets on my wall. I know that things were “different back then,” and you never modified your pre-emancipation vocabulary, but (okay, don’t freak out!) I do have “colored” friends.