A few days ago, I received, and ultimately approved, a Facebook friend request from a guy I haven’t spoken to since I graduated from high school in 2004. As is the very odd and all too common case in this digital age, I was content just to add him to my pretty stagnant “friends” list, happy to have him silently waiting for me, in case I ever wanted to find out who he married or how many kids he had. (This just in: social media is gross and so am I.)
However, this particular new friend did not stay silent long. Almost immediately, my newsfeed became cluttered with tons of unapologetically offensive nonsense, posted on the hour, every hour. In the instant I approved his internet friendship request, I had gone from completely forgetting this person existed to being visually assaulted by all the very many ways in which this person hates everyone.
And finally, la piece de resistance:
It’s safe to say this dude’s Facebook activity made me a little emotional. It made me have some feelings. And I have obviously felt the need to express those feelings here. However, my actual point is not that I think he might be a horrible guy (although, he totally is).
It is this: I let this person, who, upon further review, is someone who kinda scares me a little, have access to all my personal photos, my cell phone number, the names of all my friends and family, where I attend graduate school, and where I work, simply because we went to high school together nine years ago and we both have Facebook pages. We would never be friends in the real world. In fact, I can’t believe a person like him exists in the real world. So, why then was I so quick to “confirm” my friendship with him?
1) Because I’m a bit of a voyeur and I really wanted to see what he’d been up to – eventually, you know, when I got around to it. (Chances are, though, if he hadn’t started unleashing racism and homophobia all over my home page, I wouldn’t have investigated him ever.) And:
2) I, like a lot of people (I hope), thrive on the validation that comes from having a large online presence, be that by having a lot of Facebook friends or, say, by writing a blog post that gets shared a billion times. As those brave souls who’ve been following me for months well know, I love attention, especially in the form of internet communication. I was so thrilled that this guy I hadn’t spoken to in ages thought to add me online that I didn’t think twice about vetting his page before confirming our connection, which, in retrospect, is at best really pathetic, and at worst really stupid.
In the end, I defriended him exactly 24 hours after accepting his request, making our brief moment of rekindled friendship, with its political tensions and ulterior motives masked in social networking, a super depressing example of (my) life in the twenty-first century.
All of this begs the question: is he the terrible person or am I?
(That was a trick question. HE IS, obviously.)