Friday, October 15, 2010

1 Person Dis-"Likes" This

I've been thinking recently that I'm too awkward for Facebook. I know what you're going to say: "No one is too awkward for Facebook." But I am, actually.
I should tell you that I joined facebook late in life, after no longer being able to tolerate consistently being the object of comments such as:
"Did you see the picture of you that so-and-so put on Facebook? It's so cute. Ohhhh...that's right. You're not on Facebook..." Awkward silence.
FB User: "You didn't come to my party on Saturday." Pout-y face.
Me: "I didn't know you were having a party on Saturday."
FB User: "Umm...but I invited you."
Me: "Really? I don't remember getting an invitation."
FB User: "Yeah, I invited everyone who I'm friends with on Facebook."
Me: "But I'm not on Facebook."
FB User: "Oh. (Silence.) Awkward."

Anyway, I eventually joined and I should admit I was able to make some good connections with folks from the past (though they never went beyond the initial "Oh my GOD, how are YOU? What are you DOING?" and then "How are YOU? What are YOU doing?").  And I do periocially enjoy e-spying on the lives of friends and family who don't live locally. (For instance, I just saw a picture posted of a friend of mine in front of the Taj Mahal, which I thought was a joke, until I visited her page and found out she is actually in India right now. Go figure!)

But recently I've realized that I'm just too awkward for it all. Mostly because I become paralyzed with indecision about how to resond to most people's posts. And then I end up feeling like an awkward lurker who never responds to anything, like some loner kid in the corner of the gym at the middle-school dance not talking to anyone (was I this kid? I can't really remember, but it's possible.). Anyway, maybe I'm just too old-fashioned, but I just have no idea what to say when someone posts news of some huge life-changing event on Facebook, such as engagement, marriage, pregnancy, career change, break-ups, moves, troubling family situations, etc. As most of us (or probably more than some given my professional training), I've spent most of my life practicing how to respond to people in the real world when they tell me things like this. And I just cannot translate that into a 5 word witty comment that effectively communicates the immense (fill in empathetic emotion here) that I feel about their news. Clicking "like" never feels like an appropriately proportional response.

It's even worse when it's a close friend, because my reaction is wrapped in all the other emotions of intense curiosity, vague resentment that I wasn't told in real life, and perhaps surprise. How do I response to that in 40 characters or fewer? If I don't respond, will I be left with facing the awkwardness at some future date when I see the person again? If so, should I pretend I didn't see the news on Facebook? Or do I say "yeah, I saw that on facebook" and proceed to look like an uncaring jerk for not "commenting"?

On the other hand if I don't know the person well, I end up feeling like an intruder. Why should I be privileged with this information when I play virtually no role in this person's life? Why should I wish you a "happy birthday" (or "happy engagment" or "oh my god you had a baby" or "sorry you lost your job") when I have no other connection to you whatsoever outside the web and may never see you again. Will your life really be enhanced by my somewhat shallow and trivial well-wishes?

I realize this post is getting awkwardly long, but let me say one more thing: I think it would be helpful if Facebook would add an "acknowledge" button, similar to the "like" button. That would give me a way to say "I see this information," but not "like" it which seems much too trivial. Then in the future, I could say, "yes, I saw that!" and then proceed to communicate my empathetic reation in a proporational and appropriate way.

You see, I was right, wasn't I? I am too awkward for this.....

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