After waffling for years, I finally signed up for Facebook.
I had felt I ought to worry about privacy. After all, many of my friends do, especially those who, like me, were born eons ago. I also worried about technology destroying the human spirit, the never-ending necessity to learn new stuff, the possibility of looking ridiculous with clueless Facebook posts, and whether, when all is said and done, I even wanted to be all that sociable.
And when I had waffled long enough, I signed up. Slowly I began to enjoy the connections. I loved seeing the photos, hearing the news, and reading the funny comments from friends and family. I began to feel like a kid riding a bike down a hill for the first time. You remember that moment when you realized that you were not falling off, that you’d found your balance, that you were riding a bike! The moment just before the fall and the band-aids?
Recently I made a small mistake. Facebook was sending me messages that I wasn’t always reading carefully enough. Once, just once, I hit the “yes” button before I finished reading the entire message. Too late! It seems I invited every person on my gmail contact list who was not currently a member of Facebook to join: every person whom I’ve ever sent an email to, every person who has ever sent an email to me, and every person on any mailing list that I’m also on. All in all, about five hundred people.
Since then, friends and acquaintances have been getting back to me about the invitation. They are stopping me in the supermarket and Kinko and the library to explain their non-Facebook philosophies. Some of them are not happy.
Some, who don’t ever want any part of Facebook, have come to me to apologize. They hope I don’t mind. They truly appreciate the invitation. It was very kind of me. They hope I understand that they would prefer not to join Facebook at this time. Dear friends. I knew they didn’t like Facebook: they’ve told me so, many times.
Others were clearly annoyed. (And I can understand.) One woman, who had just quit a committee I am on, wrote me a rather curt email:
“I do not know why you ‘friended’ me on Facebook. I am not interested.”
Mindlessly, I have invited all my doctors, dentists, mechanics, and insurance agents to be my friend on Facebook. I’ve invited every person on every committee I’ve been a part of. And, as far as I know, I’ve send an invitation to every company I do business with. None has said yes.
I suppose I’ve friended foreign philanthropists who want to give me millions in British pounds if I just send them a few bucks for the privilege. Certainly they send me mail often enough.
Not everyone has rejected my invitation, of course. (This would be a mournful post if that were true.) Many good friends accepted the invitation, and it’s wonderful hearing from them, especially when I can remember who they are.
Am I the only person who loses the connection between friends and their names? Out of necessity, I have developed a strategy. I go to their Facebook wall, look at their photo, and try to remember how I know them. I google them. I double check with friends who may know them. And if I’m lucky, I have the thrill of recognition. Yes! She is the barrel racing champion from Oklahoma! We met when my car broke down in Alabama! A lovely woman!!
Occasionally, I can’t remember no matter what. For example, I am now Facebook friends with a lovely young woman named Alyssa. For the life of me, I don’t think we’ve ever met. I do know that she loves Dancing with the Stars and puppies. I enjoy reading about her; she seems like a person I’d love to have as a friend (and I do).
In all of this mess, I see an etiquette problem. Should I continue to skulk around, waiting for the puzzled responses from friends? (Many will go to their graves rather than tell me their true thoughts on the subject.) Or should I write another annoying email to everyone I know telling them that I never really meant to invite them to be my friend after all? Oh what complications I have brought upon myself and inflicted willy-nilly on others.
I was prompted to write this post this evening by an email I just got from my seven year old granddaughter. With some help from her Daddy, she wrote to explain why she, too, couldn’t be my friend on Facebook.
“Sorry, but I’m not allowed to have a Facebook account. I can when I’m older.
Thank goodness my grandchildren are the only kids whose email addresses are in my contact list. Think of the mayhem I would have created otherwise.
Copyright by Margaret French