Perpetual Plan B

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Facebook: "Friend" or Foe?

In November I became a member of facebook. Not because I wanted to, it was just the only way I would be able to see my niece's engagement photos.

So I joined. And then it opened up a whole big can of worms.

At first I was just going to use it to keep in touch with some nieces and nephews, who I really do enjoy keeping in touch with. (Sometimes I like to think I'm actually one of them, not one of the "grown-ups".)

Then I used the e-mail option and it pulled up a few friends. This should be fun, I thought. Another way to keep in touch. And with pictures. So far, so good.

Next, I started finding people from my high school class, some of whom I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Again, a great thing. It was really great to see what they were all up to, how they were all doing, etc. It was fun to talk back and forth via little messages and see photos of how we all look now, how we all looked then, kids, places we'd been, etc.

I was a little concerned when my neighbor had an album showing off her impressive collection of tattoos, but luckily I already had an idea she was headed down that road so it wasn't TOO big of a shock.

And then someone wanted to chat. And then someone else, and another one and another, etc.

Let me just say, I am not a fan of "chatting". If I'm on the computer I don't like to be interrupted by just anyone wanting to say "Hey, what's up?" I have enough interruptions in my life that are necessary and I barely have time or tolerance for them. I'm not really a fan of small talk anyway. I don't like trying to think of something polite to say next. I'd rather ask questions when I really want to know an answer. I'm funny that way.

But then, I learned how to turn the chat button off and things were good again in facebook land.

I should mention here that I really do like the option of sending a private message. That makes is nice when you want to ask a question that you're not sure the person wants to talk about in public. (It also kind of makes me feel like a secret agent. In case you didn't know, I really wanted to be a secret agent when I was younger. - Well, last year I WAS younger!)

One day, I saw one of my brothers on facebook. This is a brother I'm closer to than most of the others but still, we are not a close family. I worried about his privacy, would he want to be "friends", and so on. Then at Thanksgiving I just came out and asked (in front of his wife, so he had to say yes) and then I became friends with my brother in a weird sort of way. I also saw another brother later. He is much younger and unmarried, so I really wrestled about the privacy issue. He was actually the "friend" of a "friend" so I figured he was fair game after that. When I talked to him in real life, he did say he thought it was weird that the other person sent him a friend request, since he barely knew her, except as my friend. Therein lies one of the curiosities of facebook. People who have maybe met you once before or know you through someone else all of a sudden consider you a "friend".

Now don't get me wrong, I have really, truly enjoyed facebook, especially the first month or so when I was looking up friends right and left. It was fun, it was new, it was interesting. (And for the record here, if you are reading this, you are probably a friend that I would like to keep as a friend.)

Next I got a friend request from an old boyfriend. He was someone I dated after high school and it was not a great thing for me. He was not a nice person and it did not end well. He was someone I was glad to be rid of 20 years ago, why would I want him back in my life as "friend"? But then the stupid nice me kicked in. I started telling myself that this would be a good way to forgive him for being such a jerk. I could be the bigger person and stop holding a grudge. Whatever. Now every time I see his name in the status updates it just makes me mad.

I'm also getting more friend requsts from friends of friends, people I have not ever had a conversation with before, but kind of knew who they were in high school. And again to be polite, I click "confirm". And so again, in the status updates I just think "why?" (Does this make me a snob?) - Amended a couple of weeks later: I have really enjoyed some of these new "friends". Some of the nicer, quieter, meeker kids I barely knew in high school have done some really great things and I'm happy for them. I'm just now realizing that it's the "friends" that I don't know very well that have nothing better to do with their lives than party that I don't have much tolerance for.

I think some people like having lots of "friends". I'm not really in that category. I like keeping the friends I want and not looking at the numbers.

I do have to say it is a thrill to find someone I haven't seen for years and then out of the blue you get a friend request from them.

But it is a huge time waster for me. Because I have no self-control. And I like to see what funny things people are saying to each other. I'm a sucker for a great one-liner and facebook is full of them. The problem is that I check in all throughout the day to get a chuckle. And sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I really, really need to limit myself or at least fold a load of laundry or something in-between updates.

Oh, there is one other issue. It kind of burst my facebook bubble. Someone I know had an affair. And it started on facebook. And I wish I didn't know about it. But it is a good reminder to be cautious. I do always wonder if any of my guy friends get nervous when I write to them. I really hope that I write things so they can't be misunderstood by either them or their wives. Because some of my guy friends are very entertaining and make me laugh. And I do love a good laugh. It's cheaper than therapy.

And that's why I'm addicted to facebook.

Our internet was off for about a day and a half and what do you think was the first thing I checked? You guessed it. (Well, I had to change my status.)