Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My Facebook (So-Called) Friends

I have been on FB since before it exploded among “regular” people. And I must say it’s interesting to see its evolution.

I first registered on the site I when one of my editors realized we needed to reach some students for a story we were working on. For those on FB, you could only contact them through FB if you were a member. Problem was, I was not a student. I had to contact my alumni office for a valid school email address.

I didn’t spend a lot of time stalking students for quotes. But I had a space. I was sort of parked there.

Soon, I was friended by someone I used to work with. They hardly needed an introduction. This person is a friend. One I know well. Then there was another and another and another. The friend requests came like a barrage and I began friending people like mad myself.

Most of my early FB friends were people I used to work with, all highly adept at digital technology and, hence, early adopters of the online social network. And for a good year or so most of my friends were in the digital business, people who are online a lot, use the internet for work or are just young.

I’ve even friended some people I have never met but had a connection with, either through mutual friends or business.

I will say that for every one of those people — those I’ve never met or who do not know me — I have always — repeat, always — sent them a message of introduction or explanation of why I was friending them. That just makes sense to me.

So what I find odd — and I’ll admit, a little annoying — is that I’ve been getting friend requests from more and more people I sort of know, or used to know, or met once, or knew in grade school or college and never ever speak to or have not spoken to for years and barely recognize their name.

And they put no note. Nothing. Not even a: “Hi, did used to go to XYZ school? I recognized your name…” or “Hi, I found you on FB and would love to keep in touch – my name is now XYZ but you remember me as ABC. How are you???”


I find this odd. It annoys me, as I already said. I mean, one childhood friend added me recently, which I guess was her way of saying “Hello.” Maybe I need to just lighten up here but she didn’t put so much as a, “Hi, what are you doing and where do you live?” even after I accepted her friend request and wrote a quick hello on her Wall saying she needs to fill me in on her life. I’ve still never heard from her. That must have been two or three weeks ago.


So what do I do with these people? I am not sure I really even care to have them back in my life. I’ve done just fine without them. Not that there is anything wrong with them. Maybe I’m just in a different place.

Maybe I need a reason to re-connect. Maybe we need a kind of FB date. A little back and forth to stimulate my interest beyond the kind of connection you make at a school reunion. When you are happy to see the person, get caught up and then go on about your life and do not see them again until the next reunion. Or ever.

I guess I have only so much energy for my friends, FB included.

I certainly have no time for someone who doesn’t even make a tiny effort to communicate once we are “friends.” Again, I'm referring to people I barely know now. And have no professional connection with. They are simply someone from my past. I expect a little something from someone I once knew relatively well.

I’m not planning to delete these people but I do feel slightly exposed. So what I do is engage my privacy preferences. At least until they show me a little of themselves. I mean, so what if we hung out in grade school. I really have no idea who you are today. You know?

So my attitude is this: If you want to eavesdrop on my life, please, just drop me a line.

Some have. I do not need to talk to them all the time. For them I say: Feel free to hang out. Say or post something interesting, I might pipe in. I appreciate being in on the conversation.

That’s what is nice about FB. Connecting.

Why don’t some people get that?


stevie g-sus said...

Great post and perfect comment -
"So my attitude is this: If you want to eavesdrop on my life, please, just drop me a line."
Ellen, I think people are curious to compare their life to "yours", see who turned out better. And what better way to get that info then to hear straight from the horses mouth. Especially since so many people spill everything about themselves as if FB is a private diary. I wouldn't even accept their friend requests because I wouldn't give them the satisfaction. Didn't know me back then, don't need to know me now. Their intention isn't to reconnect, it's to see if you aged better than them or not. Are you married, are you STILL married. How many kids you have/have not. Who's husband is richer. Once they find out that info they'll never look at your page again. I guarantee it.

Cindy L said...

Fabulous post! You are speaking my mind here, on all counts .... Just this week, I was "friended" in exactly the way you describe, by two old friends from high school who ought to know enough to type a little "hello" along with their out-of-the-blue "friending." Otherwise, what's really the point of Facebook? Sometimes, I think people collect FB friends just to see how high they can get the friend numbers. Ugh.

Come to think of it, someone should come up with "Facebook Etiquette" that would remind people that you don't just walk up to someone's door and expect to be invited inside without a cordial introduction of sorts ... Just for starters!

Only the Half of It said...

G-sus... so right. Well, I cannot totally say everyone is like that I bet often that's true.
(Geez!! I hope someone I friended does not think this about me!!! Even in those cases, I at least wrote a note to them, and they never replied after accepting my friend request.)
I'm thinking of weeding people out.

Only the Half of It said...

Yes Cindy. I know I'm not alone in this. I have had more and more discussions. Might in part be due to more people who are not super web savvy getting on. But you'd think they'd still figure out a way to send a note!
Who knows? Maybe some of them don't know, as you say, the etiquette and figure that this is how everyone does it. Hmmmm.
FBetiquette. Want to write it? :-)

GardenVixen said...

Great insight, I completely agree. It's so impolite for people to request access, as it were, without even a thank you or hello!

You know, a terrible fear I have is that my parents will one day stumble upon my MySpace blog or one day try to befriend me on Facebook. Isn't that awful? Why should it matter? There's nothing to be ashamed of on either site, it just feels like a line that shouldn't be crossed. I also really didn't want my husband to have full access to everything when he signed up. It was like "hey this is MY space - a room of my own, buddy." But that's probably just my own personal hang up!

I think I'm much more open with my friends online these days. Maybe because everyone is so busy and we can all "connect" at any time, whether it's midnight or mid-day. I've discovered so much more about many of them, their interests, their habits, LOL. In some ways I've grown closer to people who I often (ironically) never see!

Still, what to do with those lurkers. Once they are in, how do you let them out without awkwardness? I know one lady who sent out a blanket message: "I'm cleaning house, if you're mistakenly deleted, please send me a message." That way she could figure out who actually wanted to participate. I thought that was pretty clever.

Only the Half of It said...

I don't think it's odd that you feel weird about your parents. I believe we have certain faces for various people or groups of people in our lives. Family is one, current friends another, friends from our more awkward past another, work, etc. We have boundaries that vary with these relationships yet with FB it's like they are all in your house at the same time, hearing everything you say.
It is strange and more and more people been commenting on this to me.
It's actually quite interesting.
Oh, my dad's college buddy friended me (I just love him) because I'm friends with his two kids and he's apparently keeping in touch with them through FB.
But it's like one degree away from my dad. Funny. I do think about it and what he might see and what he might think.

Sharon said...

I agree that, at the very least, someone who "friends" you can include a brief note to update you on their life. I say that as someone who is not on Facebook and still writes handwritten notes to send through snail mail. Yes, we've made progress with technology, but I think we've lost ground in terms of courtesy and polite conversation.

Debra Darvick said...

Have not wanted to jump on the FB bandwagon. I know all the upsides -- connecting, networking etc. Makes my flesh crawl to have the word friend turned into a verb. I know I sound like a misanthropic curmudgeon. But seriously, I barely have time for my flesh and blood friends. How will I keep up with e-friends. Or are they i-friends?

I'm leery of being "out there" any more than I am already via my blog and whatever else can be gleaned about me with a few keystrokes.

FB may be the next wave and if they figure out how to monetize it, it will be the next ocean. I'm going to watch from the shore a bit longer.

Only the Half of It said...

I don't know, maybe this is the future of communication. I am embracing the parts I like and trying to not participate in the parts I don't. What can you do?
And Debra, there are a lot of privacy issues with FB, so I do not put anywhere near the info some people do. Scary.

Susan Howes said...

As always, you give good voice to a thought that's been nagging...
I don't have so many friends from the past finding me as I do pseudo friends coming out of the woodwork, perhaps because my name has been in the public eye for nearly 20 years as a journalist. However, due to my fragile memory, and because you can never be sure what someone might be after in "friendship," I too am somewhat leery of these old/new friends and their motives.
On the other hand, and I'd be the last to defend FB, I feel compelled to share that FB hooked me up with three peeps at random - in Canada, Australia, and Colorado - that I have so much in common with and I now enjoy good conversations with, whom I might never have met otherwise. The system tricked us into becoming friends.

Only the Half of It said...

Hey! Thanks for stopping by.
Yes, I get pseudo friends too. It's a dilemma. Just today I got a Linked In connection request which I accepted thinking they had a connection I might like, then realized they were merely connected to that org. I owe her a note because I removed her right away and don't want her to think I'm being mean. I just don't want to start collecting people who are collecting people/contacts. You know? I'd rather her just connect with me when/if needed.
I love FB... I would absolutely defend it. Like anything, though, you just need to use it wisely and with moderation....