When it comes to Facebook friendships, I’m easy. I’ll accept friend requests from just about anyone who shares my interest in writing and literature or Betty White and barefoot running shoes; even those who seem rather uninterested in such things, I think, are probably worth knowing in an online capacity. Besides, who would complain about having too many online friends? There’s something so wonderfully low-maintenance about the limited nature of such friendships. For instance, I can like or not like the fact that a friend has just decided to become a Vegan or Scientologist, but the optimistic nature of the website’s design only allows my ‘Like’s to be seen. Dislikes, meanwhile, go unrecorded, and this makes me seem far more positive and less brooding than I really am.
Recently, the positive persona Facebook suggests I adhere to began to falter. In part, this is because I’ve been so naively accepting to now. Sure, I know that some people enjoy watching the number of their online friendships grow for the simple fact that they want as many friends as possible. And, I realize that these people are usually selling something — if only a calculated persona. But I wasn’t prepared for my whirlwind relationship with Poet X.
Poet X is that girl in high school who rushed to your side to throw an arm around you when you won your race in the semi-finals track meet, gushing and asking to interview you for a spotlight piece in the school paper. She is also the first one to smile when you trip on a low hurdle and blow the finals. As you nurse your broken toe and curse your barefoot running shoes, you look up to find X crouched down in the bleachers, watching, recreating the whole scene in rhyming verse, all ready to submit her burgeoning poem to the school yearbook. Poet X is a true capitalist, an artist but also an opportunist with a cost-benefit scenario dominating her choice of online friends.
But again, I’m easy. So I accepted Poet X’s friendship request with a click of the mouse and no trepidation. Little did I know that in the time it took me to leave my page and check my email, Poet X — having gained access to my friends and my wall — had already plastered my page with advertisements for her new book and airbrushed pictures of a young woman with full cheeks and big eyes, an intense stare (presumably her author shot). She had also sent me links and solicited a like for her fan page without adding a personal note. A quick “Nice to meet you, Jen! Please like my page.” would’ve been good.
I removed Poet X’s posts, figuring I’d send her a message that explained I was happy to be her friend and read her work but posting advertisements on my wall was crossing a line. The message would never be sent, however, because just as quick as our friendship had begun, Poet X disappeared. I ran a quick search, looking for her profile picture, but she was nowhere to be found. This suggested that she had not only defriended but blocked me, no more than five minutes from her initial friendship request. Confused and a little hurt, I studied my page for potential friendship turn-offs, and, unable to figure her reasoning, posted a summary of her actions on my wall. Perhaps my more enduring friends could help me figure out why I was so quickly rejected.
The response was a healthy dose of encouragement. It was her, not me, my friends wrote. One person suggested she was a serial spammer, and mine probably wasn’t the only profile she’d vandalized and left behind. Feeling better, I closed my laptop, had a nice dinner with my husband and forgot all about it. That is, until a day later when I received a friendship request from another writer I did not know. I could see that he shared my liking of yoga and the works of Nabokov, but my index finger lingered over the mouse button a long moment before I made the accepting click.
I know that others like Poet X are out there. And, while I recover from the e-trauma of my first failed ‘friend’ship, I have decided that I must move on and friend again; albeit, with cautious optimism. So, if you send me a friend request, I’ll likely accept it. I’m a supportive friend, a person who genuinely likes quite a lot — namely to meet other writers I might never get the chance to meet face-to-face. But, if we connect as friends, let us go in to this together, knowing that friendships are never simple or one-sided, even if technology suggests otherwise.
published 7 May 2011