December 7, 2008

Recently, I joined Facebook and I knew that one day I would end up writing about all the fallout. It just didn't occur to me it would be a week later. Already, I've been de-friended. How do I know? Because someone who had accepted a friend request turned up a few days later in the "friends you should know" section. This section is for when Facebook suggests friends based on people you have in common. Which is how I became friends with the now ex-friend in the first place. It meant she was back in the market for being a friend. Just not mine.

"What's worse," asked Sophie (685 friends) , "being de-friended or being ignored?"

Apparently those are my choices.

Everyone uses Facebook for different reasons and it's hard to please everybody. Or in my case, anybody. I was informed that some people think I'm not using it properly because I'm not invested enough. I send out notifications for work without putting in the time to update people on my personal life.

That's because I have no personal life.

Another situation arose out of my posting a photo. Within seconds, an Instant Message arrives from a friend in the photo with the instruction: "Take it down!"

It wasn't a request. She wanted it removed immediately because she didn't like the way she looked. But I liked it - don't I get a choice? It raised an interesting dilemma: who gets picture approval?

Naturally I reacted the way any mature woman would. I went to her home page and found several photos where I didn't think I looked so hot. Now it was a standoff. I'd take the one down where she thought she looked like a linebacker if she took the one down where I looked like Coco the Clown. Decommissioning Iran's nuclear weapons programme takes less effort.

There is also the issue of nationality and how that impacts on behaviour. For instance, my British friends are not inclined to describe what they're doing for fear that it's boasting. If someone wrote "Just back from George Clooney's birthday" I'd understand. But "Claire is back from her trip to Orlando." How does that qualify as a boast?

Dozens of people have let me know their horror stories, which I love. For some reason, educated, intelligent adults have no problem regressing to primary school ways. "You think she's your friend? She's NOT your friend" and so on. Maybe because it's the internet, they think no one is paying attention.

What I find encouraging is to learn there are people out there even more clueless than me.

Here's what not to do. If you ever want to get a book published, do not write to the publisher or agent who rejected your book and ask why. Do not post the rejection letter either. If you do that, you should simultaneously take advantage of a job opening at Dunkin Donuts.

It's advisable not to check up on the ex-boyfriend or girlfriend. Just assume they're happier than you. Do you really want to know all the details?

Do not confront friends in real life about information you've gleaned from reading their 'wall' on Facebook. For instance, you've discovered a friend was in town and didn't call you but got together with a mutual friend. People lie - live with it.

Everything on Facebook is accelerated. Friendships are established, invitations are accepted, and opportunities are created. But also, relationships are destroyed, dreams are crushed, possibilities unravel and hopes can die. It could go either way.

Someone I don't know wrote to me with a warning: watch out for the nutters. Then after signing his name he put in a parenthetical "Not my real name".

Can't wait for next week.