I have forty-three friends on Facebook. I used to have more, but I cut back. I’ve seen people with hundreds. Thousands. And always I ask myself why. I don’t even have time to properly interact with the measly forty-three people I have, I don’t have time to give a damn about hundreds more.
So let’s rewind. My ten-year high school reunion just happened. I didn’t attend, what with having recently moved to the other side of the world (it’s a good excuse when really I would have found it difficult to work up the courage to go anyhow – I was one of the “uncool nerds”, so I can’t say I enjoyed my time there). A friend of mine did go and reported that it was exactly like being seventeen again, because ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAD CHANGED. This is rather depressing. Cool kids in the cool kid corner, nerds in the nerd corner, no one crossing the floor. Pathetic for adults two years shy of thirty, or perhaps I just have high standards.
The whole event might have passed without further interest if I hadn’t received a Facebook friend request the same day from a girl I’d had no positive interaction with during the many years we’d spent at school together. There I sat at my computer, rather stunned, muttering ‘what the…?’ as I stared at the name. And twenty-four hours later I still haven’t replied. This got me thinking. Why was it causing me so much grief?
Had she sent me a request to chalk me up on her Facebook list like a completionist hunting for the final flag in Assassin’s Creed? (Even with the maps I never could find that damn thing!) Or could there be genuine interest in connecting with me. The latter seemed vastly implausible and humorous, especially when coming out of the blue. I don’t want to be nothing more than a number. I don’t want to be a conquest – the nerd who couldn’t decline the invitation of the cool girl in case it meant acceptance at last. Ten years ago I would have accepted it straight away, my enthusiasm embarrassing, hoping this might finally be the gateway to popularity. Five years ago… most likely. Two? I don’t know when I changed, when I began to analyse myself and my responses to the world, but somewhere in these last few years I’ve become a stronger person.
All this angst over a damn friend request? Really? You bet, because social media is the new socialising, clicking the like button the new smile, commenting the new conversation. Emoticons instead of emotions – the distance the internet gives us both a blessing and a curse.
Eventually I went to click “decline”, buoyed up by my strength of my own character, only to be foiled by Facebook itself. I had never declined before and so hadn’t realised there is no such thing. Ignore or accept. Really? Those are pathetic options. I could ignore it on my own, what I wanted was the chance to say “no”. You see being an author and having to make my living on the internet is stressful enough. Living in a world where reading through an article’s comment section is like wading through human vitriol is already depressing. I’m a woman. I’m picky about what food I eat. I don’t send my kids to school. I’m a nerd. And I’m self-published. I’ve picked a hard road. I can’t control what people say to me. I can’t control what people write about me or about my books or about what I look like and how I dress. But one thing I can control is who I accept to be part of my personal Facebook space, where I can be myself and know I will only ever receive positive support.
It looks like the lack of a “decline” option is just another thing over which I have no control.