Monday, December 14, 2009

The "Friend me" paradox...

Ladies and gentleman I wish to present to you an interesting phenomenon, that I have begun to refer to as the "friend me" paradox. This is a situation in which the classmates from your school wish to "friend" you on Facebook, whether they were ever actually your friends in school or not. I could not understand the reason that someone whom I haven't talked to, thought of or even wondered about in over 20 years would wish to have me on their friend list, and yet here they are. 25 years ago they couldn't be bothered to help you pick up your notebook when you dropped it, they teased you relentlessly, or worse bullied you, and now they wish to be your "friend". The people who spent what seemed to be their every waking hour making your life miserable through your whole childhood and teenage years, now wish to be part of your life, and way too many people just let it happen. Why? Is it about the connection to the past, the nostalgia, or is it because you want to find out if their life is now better or worse than yours?

So think about it, if you're on the great social networking site known as Facebook, then you have run into the dilemma of whether to "friend" someone whom you know, but would never truly consider a friend. You can "ignore" them, and hope that they let the matter drop, and you don't actually run into them in person, (and then have to explain why you ignored their friend request) or worse yet, they continue to pester you with friend requests until you finally relent and confirm the request. If the second ( and more common) result is what has happened to you, then you face a new problem, that of actual communication.

Now that you have "Friended" ( interesting how the dynamic English language is adapting to technology) this acquaintance, you have to decide how much you wish to allow them into your life. Depending on how much you actually use or share on Facebook, you may have no need to care, but if you're the kind who shares loads of info, then you may have to tinker around with individual settings, a pain in the ass, but a necessary evil.

There is also the "friend of a friend" thing, a situation that makes the online forum like a crowded room, and one conversation can be overheard by many groups. Do you want your family to see the conversations with your college buddies? How about your friends from the bar? Should they know about your sister's divorce or your brother's colonoscopy? Yet soon everyone that you have on Facebook knows everything about everyone that you know on Facebook.

You need to make some separations and set some limits. Yes, it makes it harder for the various groups to listen in to your various conversations, but it can help to keep your lives separated. The last thing you want is for your work friends to get wind of your fraternity high jinx, and get word to you boss about the time you got photographed sucking a goats teats! Not the best situation for advancement in the office! The real question becomes what do you want to do with your Facebook?

Do you wish to make/find friends? Do you wish to advance your business or career? Do you wish to keep up with family and friends from your past? Each one of these pursuits is what Facebook was designed for, yet in many cases they really are mutually exclusive, and so one MUST take the time to make the appropriate settings so that these worlds don't overlap and cause problems with each other.

And a last thought...There are many types of people who use Facebook ( or any other social networking site) but they can generally be divided into 2 basic groups, those who will clutter your wall with gifts, requests, quizzes and games, and those who will share words and thoughts and things that actually have personal meaning to them. And many are the opposite of what you might suspect!! But that's a WHOLE 'nother Rant!

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