About 2 months ago I got an email from someone who wanted to be my friend. This was someone I only knew slightly, but I had to admire that straightforward approach. I can always use more friends, I thought, so why not? Turns out she wasn’t interested in actually spending any time with me. She wanted to be my Facebook friend.
Several days later, I received a similar request from another acquaintance. By now I recognized the invite, although the details, presented as they were in my pal’s native Turkish, were lost on me.
After a couple more of these invitations, including one from my 83 year-old father, I decided the time was ripe to get with the modern technology. I joined Facebook a little over a month ago. For those who live under a rock, or who are even more fuddy-duddy than I, here’s how it works.
You put information about yourself on your own internet page hosted by Facebook. Stuff like your name, town, and where you go/went to school. Then you have a page called a wall, which is a cyber version of the dry erase board you put up on your dorm room door. You, and others, write stuff on your wall.
The point is to post witty bon mots and racy pictures on your own, as well as your friends’ walls. This lets you impress your friends, while productively using up time that would otherwise have been wasted on studying or working.
For those over 25, Facebook also allows you to reconnect with all the people you knew, even slightly, in high school. That way you can see whose life isn’t as interesting as yours. For those of us who are WAY over 25, it has the added benefit of letting you see who among your classmates is aging faster than you.
I’ve received friend requests from people I do not know. Each turned out to have some tenuous connection. One was someone I barely said hello to in high school. Other requests were from people my siblings barely said hello to in high school. I didn’t know what to do with these requests. Do you turn them down and hurt their feelings? Welcome them even though you don’t want them in your personal business?
Newby that I am, I asked the expert. My youngest daughter, Gwen, said I should just ignore requests from people I don’t really like. This is considered less rude than an outright rejection, but serves the same purpose. So that’s what I do.
Some people put more personal details about themselves on their Facebook pages than I’ve learned about my husband in 27 years of marriage. How much of someone’s stuff you get to see, however, is determined by the “friend” level they assign to you.
In real life we have different kinds of friends. You might meet one friend for lunch to complain about your kids, but you wouldn’t dream of pouring your heart out to her. These gradations in friendship are understood, but never discussed. Facebook friendship, however, is assigned with a brutal honesty not seen since 4th grade. “Janie is now my best friend, and you’re not!”
My kids explained that people their age don’t like people my age “creeping” their pages. They like to keep all the spiritual poetry they write and pictures of themselves and their friends putting up Habitat for Humanity homes private. And I respect that. Which is why I didn’t friend request any of my nieces or nephews. When one young relative was a little hurt that I hadn’t requested her friendship, I happily did so. I skipped over to her page, anticipating the new, adult rapport we would have. The friend level she had assigned me allowed me to see her first name, her city, and a picture of the back of her head from 2 blocks away.
It seems having lots of friends, even if in name only, confers some kind of status on Facebook. Some collect friends like commemorative shot glasses – you can never have too many.
All in all, I’m enjoying my Facebook time. It’s a great way to stay in touch with far-away friends and family. Especially now that both my girls are away at college. Which reminds me. I need to check with Gwen because the friend request I sent her about a month ago obviously went astray. I guess you have to expect these glitches with technology, right?