Compared to many of my compatriots, I was a relative latecomer to Facebook. This was absolutely by design. I’d heard enough about the banal status postings (“Should I go the gym or have a second cup of coffee?”) and the proud parental postings (“Junior made honor roll again!”) such that I felt, while maybe I had the time, I didn’t want to invest it in this particular form of social interaction.
The years ticked by and I began to feel excluded from something that everyone else seemed to be enjoying, banality notwithstanding. Eventually I succumbed to the temptation, enlisted the help of my then-13-year-old to set up an account, and began my foray into the Facebook world.
For many of us mid-lifers, the best part of Facebook is that it offers a means to connect with people we thought we’d never hear from again. This was definitely true for me. It has been great fun to hear from high school and college friends whom I fully expected to go to my grave without ever having heard from again. I’ve loved learning about the lives they’re now living, seeing photos of their kids, and then – once that initial burst of contact is over – reading the occasional “post” to keep me in the loop. The family photos that are posted are often sweet and I’ve enjoyed the clever posts as well as the occasional witty political cartoons.
But I think the honeymoon is over. I’m starting to feel badly about this thing that I clearly chose to become a part of.
First up for Facebook downers are going through the effort of trying to “friend” someone, only to have the entreaty go unanswered. How bad does that feel? It gets bizarre: one time I ran into a woman at Shaw’s who I happen to know is Facebook “friends” with many of my real life friends, yet she had ignored (read: rejected) my own “friend” request. Or had she? I wondered as I surreptitiously ducked into another aisle to avoid humiliation. Maybe she doesn’t check Facebook frequently and has no idea I sent a friend request. Of course she checks, I concluded, and she just doesn’t want to make contact with the likes of me on Facebook. Argh. Now what the heck am I supposed to make that mean? There, she’s in the parking lot. I can go to the checkout line now…
Then there are the “friend” requests that are received from people you have never heard of ever in your life. Having felt the sting of a rejection, I am hesitant to hit “Ignore Request” for fear of offending this person who clearly had the good sense to friend me. But then again, I don’t know anyone living in Daytona Beach, Florida! Miss Manners did not opine on social media etiquette – what does one do?
To address this conundrum, I consulted someone most qualified to answer: the teenage boy who helped get me get started on Facebook.
“Most kids will accept anyone who friends them,” he explained patiently to his socially-challenged mother, “but you don’t have to if you’re not comfortable with it.”
Well, there you go. Sage advice and the matter is settled.
The weeks went by and, admittedly, it was fun amassing friends. (Will I break 100? How about 150? Maybe 200 ...) I was “liking” stuff all over the place: photos, witticisms, quotes. I was acknowledging birthdays, anniversaries, vacations, promotions. Like, like, like, like. I was an active participant in my Facebook community. Like!
Then the inevitable occurred: without realizing it, I began to keep score. On Facebook, that is. I noticed that, while I had “liked” most of so-and-sos posts, he/she had never “liked” anything I had ever posted. Not one “like.” Ever. Hmmm. That’s not fair, I thought, I’m not going to hit “Like” so quickly next time she posts.
A few seconds passed before I realized how ridiculous this activity had become. It’s quid pro quo taken to a new low. By me.
I have a friend who warned me that Facebook has a way of shining a spotlight on well-buried insecurities. Just when you’re feeling down about, say, your inability to leave town for more than an hour or two, someone’s family vacation photos from Interlaken or the Bahamas will appear. “Like”? And I wonder if those baby photos are painful for the infertile couple?
OK, OK. This Facebook I’ve hooked up with – it’s a lousy relationship, I admit it. Our better days are behind us.
But in spite of all of this, I post this column each week (and the occasional photo) and really appreciate the support I have found there from friends. And when there are no “Likes” – as sometimes happens – well, I only feel badly for a second or two.
Which is really what Facebook is all about anyway, isn’t it, the two-second response?
So, warily, I stay in this relationship.
Now you’ve read this, please hit “Like” and we can both get on with our days.