I was a late-comer to all the social networking Web sites. I joined Friendster in September 2005 to spy on a boy I liked. Friendster was all the rage in 2003 and my friend (read: distant acquaintance) Dave, went so far as to say, "Did you really just join?" As much as I enjoyed looking in on my heartthrob and memorizing his list of favorite movies, I didn't see what the big deal was with the site itself. Thus, when MySpace began its cyber-world domination, I proudly avoided putting up a profile together. That is until the Author's Guild Summer 2007 Newsletter arrived. It featured an article on how MySpace can increase book sales. Damn it! I threw my head back and swallowed my pride like a shot of Wild Turkey and joined. Naturally, once I settled into MySpace, I was told that everyone had left the party and they're now doing after hours over at Facebook. When does it end?
I'll admit there are certain aspects of networking sites that caught me off guard and actually gave me warm fuzzies. For example, I've touched base with a handful of friends I only knew in passing in high school and college. It's nice to know what they're up to without having to have them in my life on a regular basis--unless, of course, I want to. I also keep in touch with two of my cousins who are in college--without Facebook, I'm sure I'd know nothing of what goes on in their lives. Then there are the downsides, such as the men who won't stop writing and asking me out even when I politely tell them that I'm not here for dating. And, finally, there are the circumstances that are just plain weird, which leads me to the title of this write-up.
It was a cold day in early December, and I was on a routine visit to Facebook. Once I arrived I was informed that my friend Chiara added the "Send Cupcakes" application and that my friend Victor was taking a nap. I wrote on the wall of an event, and noticed I had a message in my inbox. The subject was "long, long time ago." The sender didn't post a profile picture, so I began to read: Ok, this is going to be a major blast from the past. I think 1999? We spent one very nice evening together. Cains Saloon in Dormont ring a bell? It came rushing back. Before I even got to his name, I knew exactly who he was. I was simultaneously flattered and perturbed. I was flattered that he a) remembered me and b) went out of his way to look for me. I was perturbed that he could find me with little to no effort.
My uneasiness didn't last too long because this guy, let's call him John, was very nice. After we had our wild night together he drove me back to campus and asked for my e-mail address (we had e-mail back then, but no social networking sites). He wrote me a handful of times. He never asked to see me again--he just wrote regularly to say hi and ask how I was. Even in my naive state of mind, I knew that wasn't typical one-night stand behavior. His intentions this time around seemed to be the same. I replied to his Facebook message and we went back and forth a few times. He didn't say "Let me know next time you're in Dormont," he simply asked me what I was up to. We caught up as if we weren't strangers, became Facebook friends, and that was that.
This is just one of the many strange scenarios created by our modern communication system. It has me wondering if that was the original point--to be in constant contact with each other, but not really. We can know what's going on in each other's lives down to the second, but are we meant to be privy to that information? Does it take away from conversation when we are face-to-face? I have 106 friends on Facebook and 630 friends on MySpace. Dare I actually refer to them all as friends? I'm willing to bet there are a few that I wouldn't get along with in person. Maybe I avoided following the crowd for so long because something inside me knew I could become addicted as easily as the next guy, and I am. I want my numbers to keep growing. It's the popularity bug we catch in high school and never quite get over. I can't tell you why that is, but if you're interested:
Follow Samara O'Shea on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SamaraOShea