God! Another high school classmate has found me on MySpace and wants to be my friend. I have to “accept” or “deny.”
What the heck!
I started this mess. Over the summer I used MySpace to reconnect with a girl I had gone to school with after she found me electronically. I was still new to the site and didn’t really know how huge a cult it was. Having missed my 10-year reunion, I was feeling nostalgic, and when I got an e-mail one day saying Kristin would like to be my friend, I thought, “Why not? She was always nice.” I did have to look at her profile for a good bit first to remember who she even was, but she passed my creep-a-zoid screening and I decided it was okay to proceed with messages.
Kristin and I traded a few short updates, and while we’d never been close, it was fun catching up. The following week, I got hit up by another former acquaintance I hadn’t spoken to in a decade. So I added her as a friend as well, though I didn’t really want to, thinking she and Kristin must talk and it would be rude of me to click “Deny.”
Then another one came a few days later. Fast-forward eight months and here I am, getting this familiar e-mail notice every couple of weeks: “SOMEONE YOU KIND OF USED TO KNOW BUT DELIBERATELY DISTANCED YOURSELF FROM has sent you a Friend Request on MySpace!” Apparently I had invited all 125 Class of ’96 Eagles back into my life when I exchanged those pleasant but brief updates with Kristin. Little did I know how repercussive they’d be.
The dilemma is common: is it better to click “Accept” and allow this person to think you want some kind of relationship, all these years later, though you don’t even live in the same state and can’t remember how much you ever shared to begin with and have no idea how aggressive a MySpace fiend she might be, or to click “Deny” and run the risk of hurting her feelings and having her denigrate your good (if that is the case) character to whomever she keeps in touch with? You make the call, but keep in mind there are many freaks out there who post bulletins five times daily with headings like, “The Hilarious Thought I Had in the Waiting Room While My Poor Kitty Got Her Stomach Pumped.”
I usually go with “Accept,” but I do so grudgingly. The softie in me just can’t get the image out of his head of someone I used to be chums with realizing that I actively denied her friendship and feeling genuinely hurt over it. You never know what state of mind someone might be in, or what the past ten years have done to her, and rejection is a powerful thing.
Also, I’m a puss.
What does the F-word mean here, anyway? According to my profile, I have 117 "friends". Funny — this Christmas I bought a ten-pack of cards, sent most of them to relatives and still had three left over for the recycling gods.
Truthfully, I don’t think I’m good friend material. I know too many people and end up giving few of them the appropriate amount of time needed to build a significant bond. I’d say I have a never-ending supply of people to go to lunch with and a short list of those who will bail me out when Heath Ledger eventually has me arrested for spying from his bushes. (Heath, if you’re reading this, stop denying my MySpace requests!) I’m not happy about this, and maybe that’s why I get irked when old pals hit me up. I guess I know the last thing I need right now is one more person to feel guilty about not paying any attention to.
Still, that is only half the issue. The other half is the message MySpace (and the moribund Friendster) sends to its users about friendship in general. The attitude toward friendships online seems to be “the more, the merrier,” but is it? Should people have 343 “friends” and spend six hours a day keeping up with their comments, pictures, blogs and birthdays, beginning every correspondence with, “I’m sorry I’ve been too busy to write”? I don’t know if that’s healthy. God bless the Internet, but virtual reality is not reality.
And the other issue is this — my fear of being the same person I was in high school. I think we all share that. Can we avoid being the awkward, pimpled amateurs we used to be if we surround ourselves today with our old peers?
It must be possible. It probably just takes a good deal of security, and denying old acquaintances the tiny, electronic pieces of our lives that MySpace offers won’t bring us that security. It will only bring them sadness. So I say accept, accept, accept.