My friend Ronnie has told me lately that he’s had a slew of friend requests on Facebook. All are people that he knows – but many are people he has not spoken with in years – since high school (he’s 31). He mentions this to me as he ponders why, exactly, these people are getting in touch with him. Is it because they want to see how much he’s changed since then? (He was a self-professed dork in high school; he’s mega hot now … In fact, I have yet to introduce him to a single girlfriend of mine that doesn’t want him … For the record, he’s taken, ladies!)
My thought is that these people have no underlying reason for befriending him via Facebook. I have many friends over Facebook and MySpace that I knew vaguely at best years ago and barely speak to even now. Sometimes I accept a friend request and then the person never even speaks to me. But I don’t think it’s about anything other than the person saying, “Hey, I know her (or him)” and sending a request.
Ronnie questions, however, whether we humans are wired to have this many friends – “I can barely remember to call you every day!” he says, “much less keep up with people I haven’t seen in 10 years or more …”
Are we able, mentally and emotionally, to keep up with this many people?
An embarrassing moment I had a couple of years ago was at my high school reunion. A girl I knew vaguely in high school approached me and mentioned that she’d been able to keep up with what I was up to via MySpace. “Oh, we should be MySpace friends then!” I said. An awkward pause followed. It wasn’t until a couple of days later I realized – we already were MySpace friends. Oops on a few levels – I had forgotten we were friends, I clearly wasn’t looking at her page, and she had been looking at mine. I felt terrible!
I happen to view MySpace and Facebook as great networking tools. As a graphic designer who is a small-business owner, I believe it’s great to find contacts through personal references, and if my great friends and sorta-friends and those I vaguely know can be made aware of what I’m doing via one or two websites, then I find it’s a great tool to get the word out. Same for when I need a service someone I know provides – why not help each other out when we can?
So where do we draw the line? Do we endlessly accept friend requests from those we hardly know anymore, or do we take a stand and risk offending someone? And what does it mean to send a friend request to someone you haven’t seen in a long time? Are you super-nosy or just trying to reach out and say hi?
And oooh – what about befriending an ex? What’s the etiquette on that? Is it morbid curiosity, a need to reconnect or simply acknowledging a part in each other’s lives?