Of course I know who Scott Evans is. The openly blond actor is the kid brother of Captain America star Chris Evans. He has made a name for himself in his own right with a memorable turn on One Life to Live playing a cop, one of our top five gay career fantasies, according to the Village People. Most recently I spotted him in the audience at the Emmy Awards, and a few weeks ago on the patio of a bar in West Hollywood. So, yes, I certainly know who he is. I just don't know him. But try telling that to Facebook.
The social networking behemoth that has turned our most casual encounters and passing thoughts into broadcasts of the highest import is also in the business of fostering friendships (old and nonexistent) with a little something called "People You May Know." You will occasionally see it pop up on the right side of the page as you scroll through the latest picture of a costume or oblique emotional reference ("That was harder than I could have imagined!") that is the hallmark of the modern Facebook experience. Occasionally, Facebook will successful identify a long-lost cousin slow to join the network or someone cool from high school you forgot you liked and wouldn't mind catching up with. But if you are a gay man on one of the coasts with a large network, mostly it will be a sea of random shirtless hunks and the occasional celebrity. And if you are me, it will be Scott Evans, again and again and again.
I don't know why Facebook has such a hard-on for the idea of me being friends with Scott. Yes, he is very handsome, and I am partial to blonds, but we are in no way connected in the real world, not even tangentially. At least when Facebook offers up Andrew Rannells, star of The New Normal, it can be mildly justified by the fact that I met him one time at a party two years ago and did see him on Broadway in The Book of Mormon. I haven't added Andrew yet, but as I have watched the number of friends we have in common swell to 27 in subsequent "People You May Know" appearances, it would seem that I am one of the few people I know showing any reluctance to add him. I could even understand Facebook suggesting Scott's brother Chris. I did pay good money to see The Fantastic Four, after all, and that has to be worth something.
Perhaps it is just me and my old-fashioned ways and only wanting to be "friends" with people I am actually friends with. People take the whole Facebook friendship thing way too personally, as if it were some kind of actual representation of your closeness with another person. I can add James Lipton, Rex Reed and Pee Wee Herman on Facebook all day long, but that doesn't guarantee that we will all be taking in the autumn colors in Central Park together (unfortunately). Never mind the steady parade of strippers, porn stars and Ivy Leaguers who always just happen to be shirtless whom I will also never befriend in real life, sadly.
I ruthlessly remove people from my friend list on their birthday if there has been more than a year of inactivity between us. Trust me: They are so busy with well wishes that they don't notice. In my dreams my Facebook friends number drops below 50, which would more accurately represent my circle (sorry about your ghost town, Google+), but in my waking hours I would settle for under 500. It is hard for me to turn down the publicists or advertisers who deliver for my show or the cousins I have never met whom my mother has connected with, and since I gave that great wedding toast over the summer, the friend requests I receive from people I didn't even say "hello" to has swelled. Guilt and vanity prevent me from denying that last group, but never fear, they all have birthdays in their immediate future.
I suppose I should be flattered, and Scott Evans should be flattered, too. A combination of ordinary people and a computer algorithm have joined forces to bring us together. A more connected world is a better world, right? I guess I don't mind the "staying connected" part; I just wish that if people are going to take it all so personally, it would in fact be personal. So the next time I am walking down Santa Monica Boulevard and see Scott Evans, I will be sure to say "hello." Perhaps he has been wondering why my random mug has been appearing on his page, too. And maybe then we will go from being "People You May Know" to people you know, which is so much better.
Follow Derek Hartley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wastesyourtime