This started out as an email to my friend Mad Dog, but by the time I was done I realized it was far too good to waste on just one person, and I’d never even answered his question about whether I wanted the digital multimeter he was offering me. So, here it is:
Hey! So I went looking for you on the Facebooks, but I couldn’t find you, so I picked another guy with your name who lives in Boston and asked him to be my friend. No response as of yet….
But seriously, I opened a Facebooks account sometime ago just so that if someone was looking for me and stumbled across it, they would be able to find my blog, and hence, me. I never had any intention of really using the damned account, as I saw it as just another MySpace knockoff, and I fucking hate MySpace. I think I started a blog just to spite MySpace. Then last week I get an email from a geocacher I know, who apparently wasn’t able to find me on the Facebooks, because she sent me one of those “Hey! You should get a Facebooks account, so we can be friends” emails. Hmmm. I dug around for my login info and checked out my account, where I found a friend request from fellow Receiver and scourge of the high seas, Captain Dave. It had probably been sitting there for months. Un-responded-to. At work, he’d probably been glaring at me out of the corner of his eye for weeks on end thinking, “I’m not your friend, eh?” and then laughing in appropriate places at jokes I’d tell. OH MY GAWD! ITS ALL BEEN A LIE!
Maybe it happened that way.
Now, should I or should I not accept this “friend” request? Technically, I’m Dave’s boss. Factually, I’m about 10 years his senior. I accepted an invite once to join him and some friends for the opening night of Iron Man. Two things became glaringly obvious. One: a guy who wears a suit of armor that can fire rockets from its wrist is freaking awesome, and I have virtually nothing in common with 20 something childless non-marrieds who are in various states of still living at home, even if they pay rent, which is only right. I gave it some thought. Not a whole lotta thought, since I was just checking my email before running out the door to work, but enough thought to reason it out like this: we may not “hang”, as the kids say (hey, I used to say that!), but I actually spend more waking hours with Dave every week than I do with, get this, my wife. No, for reals. I think I may know more more about his relationships than he does, and in exchange he knows less about mine than I do. Uhhhh…. But sure, in the world of Facebooks, I think I can accept his friend request. So I do. Then I pop off a request of my own to the geocacher that emailed me, and go to work.
And here’s my problem with social networking sites. There’s apparently no distinction between friend, and acquaintance. Where’s the “person I’ve met and have probably had a few conversations with but I wouldn’t exactly call them a friend in the traditional sense” designation? What’s with the stark absolutes? I’m your friend or… or what? What happens if I click on that Decline button? Does that person get an automatically generated email saying “Patrick Colin Delaney hates you. Now sod off.” Do they even get an email? Or are they just left to imagine how much I much I must hate them, to not have accepted them as a friend? Oh! Oh, wait! I think I get it. These sites were created by those people who used to be in charge of those stupid cliques when I was in school, right? You’re in or you’re out. With us or against us. Cool or (dammit) uncool.
When I got home I had 4 new friend requests. Three more from geocachers and one from another bookseller at the store who Dave may have dated. Okay did date. Okay is no longer dating. (See? See what I mean? Where’s the ex-girlfriend category? Huh?) One of the geocachers I know well, so I click the Accept. The other two… see, here’s the thing… I know that I know these people. I’ve probably talked to them at any one of the many geo-events I’ve attended. They obviously know me. Take the problem that I only know most cachers by their geocaching.com screen names, combine that with Facebooks’s crazy notion that everyone should be referred to by their legal first, middle and last names and sprinkle in my inherited inability to remember any names and you have a double batch of Chocolate Chip WhoTheHellAreYou Dough. With nuts.
I’m still sorting all this out. If I wasn’t making it all far more complicated than it needs to be then I’m sure I’d be doing something horribly necessary and constructive and what a total waste that would be. I’m perfectly cool with “friend of a friend”. Right? Why not? Here’s all these people asking “Can’t we just be friends?” I… I thought that’s how you ended a relationship.