Has this ever happened to you?
You glance down at your email and see a “friend request” from Facebook. You think to yourself, “that’s nice, someone wants to be my friend.”
Upon further inspection, you see a name that you’d long ago forgotten about, thanks to time and its magical erasing qualities. All the healing of old wounds and so forth.
But now here is this interloper in present day, and although ignoring it (path of least resistance) or declining it (active HELLS TO THE NO) are both viable options, the poke is there, and it’s a painful jab in the virtual ribs for old times’ sake.
While Facebook and all social media are amazing in many ways — for me, 99% of the connections I’ve been happy for, rekindling old friendships in a positive, fun, and even Zen way — there are the those sticky situations that can lodge in your craw and make you wish you could log off and hide under a rock until the next millennium.
Unintended Consequence #1: Facebook, which was meant to be a fun and instantaneous way to socially network in the present, can also be a painful way to reopen some formerly closed channels of the past.
This may seem like a dramatic response, but this most recent uninvited “friend” brought back a lot of uncomfortable memories from childhood. It wasn’t an ex, but it was a person who had a domineering presence tinged with unacceptable overtones that even as a kid I knew enough to feel queasy about. This person was never my friend, nor would he be someone I’d ever want contact with as an adult.
And although DECLINE was the clear action, the uneasy feeling of invaded privacy lingers.
That said, who the hell am I kidding? I’m a blogger that rants about my private life (as I am doing RIGHT THIS MINUTE for you lovers of existential crisis and other virtual reindeer games), and I am active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter; yutz around on Pinterest; have a little dalliance with Tumblr going; and my privacy settings are set, but not often reviewed even as the algorithms change constantly. This from a person who has a BBF journalist that has literally interviewed more hackers than anyone else, and he was told by one of his interviewees “Facebook is gold for hackers.”
Unintended Consequence #2: Taking the “ignorance is bliss” route as you navigate public spaces is the surest road to bummer city.
Still, choosing to be involved with social media isn’t an open invitation for weirdness. And this wasn’t the first time I’ve encountered this scenario.
There was the woman who played an instrumental role in breaking up a close, real-life friendship I had. While her words and manipulations weren’t the entire reason things fell apart — there was plenty on my end that I took responsibility for, and equally as much from my ex-BBF — she was happy to fan the flames in a Mommy Mean Girl sitch that to this day makes my stomach hurt if I think too much about it. I put her on “ignore,” so periodically the friend request resurfaces. I think I take some kind of perverse delight in not letting her in without actively kicking her out, if that makes sense. Just an echo of the games people play when they want to be passive aggressive douchebags.
Unintended Consequence #3: I’m a passive aggressive douchebag, albeit virtually so.
Then there was the teacher who reconnected with me through an online alumni group, and proceeded to ask me if I was “still as pretty as I was in high school” and if my marriage was a happy one. While I could’ve easily shrugged off this line of questioning as the flirty musings of a man who nowadays was probably the same age as many of my friends and colleagues (since he was likely in his mid-20s when I was 18), instead it brought back a flood of memories of me feeling as if he liked me a little more than normal and necessary in a student-teacher dynamic. Having that old inkling confirmed made me first uncomfortable, then swiftly thereafter totally pissed. Nothing more disgusting than a decades-old, cold plate of lechery zapped by social media and served up hot ‘n fresh as if it would be more appetizing in the present day.
Unintended Consequence #4: Social Media boundaries can feel as flimsy as the loosely arranged string of pixels that they are.
As much “fun” as it is to point fingers at others, my own behavior on social media occasionally gives me pause. I wonder if I should “like” a photo of an ex, worry about saying stupid shit on comments, or even spend too much damn time studying other people’s lives like a voyeur. Once upon a time the past stayed where it was unless we very actively pursued rekindling old connections. Today we passively have insight into people we once knew when, and make assumptions about their adult lives based on food choices, drink choices, offspring, and other benign, yet ultimately intimate and possibly telling details.
Unintended Consequence #5: We social media addicts are all essentially creepy stalkers.
The question is, then, why do I — WE — feel so compelled to interact on Facebook and other social media if we know it is fraught with so damn many pitfalls? The answer, I think, is that it’s human nature to want to be connected with others. We want to be “liked,” and to know that out there in the big, scary world we have a friend… or two…. or 562.
So if you see me sending you a friend request, just know that despite the fact that I am an ignorant, passive aggressive douchebag that lacks boundaries and is essentially a stalker, I only ask if you are someone I really want to be connected to. And if we can’t meet face-to-face, well then, maybe Facebook really is the next best thing. (Or is it….?!)