When I first joined Facebook my criteria for accepting friend requests was fairly simple: Would this person attend my funeral? Ok, would they attend it if they didn’t have other pressing, out-of-town commitments like being stuck in Malta, or Barcelona (typed with a lisp), or out hiking in the middle of the Badlands, or you know trapped in Waco in some death cult? Ok, would they at least kind of make a sad face that the average person could read as sad and then send a sympathy card to my husband or my parents? Ok, would they at least avoid hitting the “Like” button if my husband posted my obituary? If I could answer “yes” to any of those questions, they were in – unwittingly signed up for my media shares and occasional thought burps. When I looked at the final count I was confronted with an awful truth – only a tiny handful of friends and family would actually show for my funeral. I made a mental note to suggest my wake be held in the backyard shed. That could be nice, and with three people it might make the space look like it was bustling with mourners. (Mourners are universally known for their bustling.)
As Facebook grew, and more people joined, I had requests from folks like my former Girl Scout troop, high school and college friends, old roommates, people I met in improv, people I knew solely online, friends of friends, former co-workers, and that one girl who claims we went to the same school, but I haven’t a clue who she is. My “Friends” list quickly jumped from 3 to over 3 in no time. Then invariably came requests from current co-workers. I was rather careless in the beginning by accepting any request that came my way in an effort not to appear rude. Once I realized the mistake I quickly discovered the security settings and created a friend limbo which limited their access. I didn’t want to run the risk of having a meeting room meltdown should I actually “unfriend” one of these folks.
There are now only a few co-workers who can see my entire feed (weekly drivel). These carefully selected folks went through a rigorous screening process – the Vegas Vet – or “what happens on FB stays on FB”. Basically, we don’t talk about each other’s latest post – a knowing nod in the hall suffices. A simple head gesture that says, “I know you have a camera, oh and you also have photogenic cats, two fierce Bengal plastic mouse chasers – keep it cool, I’m just walking on by casual-like, ‘’Sup!’” The day I get one, “I hate that picture of you” “You look weird.” “Why would you post that?” the offender is either removed completely or moved to the special FB purgatory where they can only see my profile picture, but hey we’re still friends – that’s nice right? (For the record, those are actual remarks I’ve received in the hallway at my office.)
After some careful thinking, I finally resolved to make my life easier by not accepting new friendship requests from current co-workers.
Now here’s where I need to state that I don’t see a FB “Friendship” as a real friendship. If I did, we’d be back to the three people at my shed wake. I see it as a way to find and catch up with people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s a great way to have very superficial interactions, to catch up with George Takei or Mike Rowe, and it can be a solid personal PR tool – you can promote yourself, your latest achievement, your business, etc. That’s not to say that I don’t have real friends there, but our friendship is strengthened by our outside interactions (unless they live in Japan) – not by the latest photo meme being passed around. I accept I may be alone in this assessment.
So back to the co-workers. I received a new request a couple of weeks ago and realized we were going to have to talk. I didn’t want to talk. Talk is perilously close to confrontation and could end with someone getting upset. I talked the situation over with my friends (the three wake shed-ders you’ve come to know and love), and with their advice in hand I politely explained that I liked to keep work separate from home. This is actually true. I’m that person who doesn’t tend to talk about personal things at work. I’m the person people throw proverbs at like, “well, I guess still waters run deep” (which either means I’m quietly treacherous or I take sketch classes, and occasionally show up on stage with a puppet in hand). Plus, my friends might post that awkward picture of me not drinking (because I’m a tea-totalling, uptight prude), and how awkward would that be?
At the end of the brief chat I felt good, I felt adult. I had handled a particularly awkward conversation with great aplomb and it went, in my mind, really well. Of course it went really well until it didn’t, and that’s when I received multiple texts about how embarrassed they were and how they’d put me in a bad situation, which they hadn’t. They said they hoped we could still be friends. I was at a complete loss and ended up spending the better part of my evening texting them off the FB ledge which included sharing my philosophy about FB not being an actual friendship. I explained that we were “real” friends and that was more important than any one line blurb I might throw out there or any #TBT baby photo (no Tori, you may NOT go back in time and squeeze my little fat baby cheeks – whoops, sorry I digress). I eventually got them to a place where they were reasonably ok with the situation. At least, I think they were ok with it, but you see how well my thinking goes.
I guess Jay shouldn’t count on her showing up at the shed.