Friends Without Benefits

For a variety of reasons, I caved and joined Facebook recently. Since then, the barrage of friend requests has been interesting—bringing me up to date with people I actually have ongoing relationships with, but also, yes, causing me some bemusement. Several times now, I’ve had requests from people I don’t remember at all. I stare at their pictures, trying to subtract 30 pounds and 30 years, and faintly, I hear an internal murmur of, “Didn’t you once go to her birthday party?” or “After she made majorettes in high school, didn’t she look right through you every time you passed her in the hall?” This process becomes even more bemusing when, after accepting that we once were “friends” and, in a complete failure of logic, thereby should continue to be so now, I go back to Facebook to read such barely-remembered people’s comments about how I haven’t changed a bit…and am left thinking, “But, um, really: who ARE you?” An interesting sidenote to this situation is that it is primarily happening with people who never moved away from my hometown; perhaps because they still drive the same roads every day that I drove when I was 15 and cruising around looking for beer, they remember me more vividly than I do them. (most likely, I stick out in their memories because I gave them beer when I scored some; most likely, they don’t stick out in my memory because, after giving them a can of Bud Light, I drank the rest of the twelve-pack)

Outside of the general friending weirdness, I’m not sure I’m feeling the Facebook love, either, just in terms of what having these connections is supposed to achieve. A few people I’m genuinely interested in do post updates nearly every day; this is fun and gratifying. Dear pal Jim: I love knowing that you were a big ole Huck Finn and canoed the Mississippi the other day! Dear friend Kirsten: I am so glad the “tummy tuck” you just had after losing more than 200 pounds due to gastric bypass a few years ago resulted—gawp—in the removal of 18.5 pounds of loose skin! Dear Facebook: now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! However, most of my friends don’t seem to post or comment much–what with the people I’m attracted to having a compulsion towards real life and all–which leaves me wondering why we’re all loitering there in the same cyber corner, cocktails in hand, frozen in the grips of a stilted silence.

Also confounding me are the people whose contributions to my Facebook news stream are about what quizzes they took and how they scored on them. I have twelve levels of snark I could dip into on this one, but the words that sum up my feelings best are these: REALLY? REALLY???? Beyond wading through people’s quiz results about how well they remember the Huxtables and which Transformer they most resemble in real life, I find myself spending time in front of the computer, mumbling “What the eff?” when the news updates from my “friends” report that: “Mike Conrad was farming quietly when a lost cow wandered onto his farm. Won’t someone please adopt this poor cow and take it off Mike’s hands?” The first time I saw one of these now-ubiquitous posts, I thought Mike (who grew up in my subdivision and, um, had freckles, and, er, maybe was a wrestler?) had taken an interesting turn in his adult life and somehow gotten some land and–ooh, fingers crossed–was manning a small organic operation that could be a step towards humanity getting back to good and just food. How odd, me thought, that a random cow had come wandering across his acres, and I did hope it hadn’t trampled his leafy greens, but how even odder, me thought, that the modern farmer solves his livestock dilemmas through Facebook (I was on the verge of messaging Mike and telling him this lost-cow thing could be a terrific chance to up his fortunes: become a passive cattle rustler–a cattle receiver–and raise that poor, lost heifer on delicious grasses, thusly saving it from a life of misery on a feed lot). Just when I was starting to believe, wonder of wonders, that Facebook might provide a really specific service for today’s farmers with fencing problems, I re-read Mike’s post and realized his “farming” is completely a cyber-gameish Facebook activity, and his hands never touch soil, his heinie never leaves the chair, his pitchfork never gets unhooked from the barn wall. Tarnation, but I’m starting to think he might not even have a barn.

The net effect of my Facebooking so far has been reactionary—that is, to garner greater appreciation for Twitter (the 140-character limit actually forces users to create a very specific “voice” for a very specific writing purpose, a fact that doesn’t hurt my English teacheritude one whit; plus, there’s something steady, consistent, and immediate about tweets…they fulfill a certain social impulse) and, woot-woot, to bring me back to the beauties of blogging. In particular, I am renewed in my appreciation for this venue that allows for careful crafting (not that you’d always know it), that fosters exploration and reflection, that urges storytelling, that creates an audience of new readers/friends who don’t necessarily grow only out of previous life experiences who who are drawn to the site through choice. In the face of Facebook, blogging feels like a refreshingly creative and dynamic space. What’s more, I have to censor myself on Facebook, due to the wide range of ages and beliefs of my friends; however, in the world of blogging, while I do hold back from some therapeutic writing about certain experiences and people, I feel fairly liberated, can out-and-out make shizz up and, occasionally, even allude to the fact that I have a vagina. Some of my youngish Facebook friends have ‘em but don’t quite know it yet, and I’d hate to be the one to drop that bomb at their feet.

Or between their legs.

Because ultimately, with some things in life, isn’t it more appropriate to learn about them in the back seat of a car, with a boy whose name you vaguely recall is “Randy” but whose whispers of breath across your cheek make your knees weak with anticipation

…rather than through the computer, from your dad’s cousin’s wife, even when you definitely know her name is Jocelyn and that she needs a Tic Tac?




31 responses to “Friends Without Benefits”

  1. Jenn @ Juggling Life Avatar
    Jenn @ Juggling Life

    I'm hot and cold on FB. I wish there were a category for "I want to be your friend for a day to find out what you're up to, but I really don't want to hear from you again for another 20 years."

  2. WaltzInExile Avatar

    I, too, am somewhat uncertain about Facebook. I've made peace with the uncertainty, though.
    Now if only I could make peace with that Randy guy…

  3. Jeni Avatar

    My daughter had been after me for quite some time to join Facebook but I figured I really didn't need to add another addiction to the ones I already have with the computer. But then a friend I "met" via the internet and family tree research kind of implied I should try FB so I decided to take the plunge. So far, I haven't found any long-lost friends from high school and the folks I got to know in college -well, I was a returning adult (i.e. very old student) and not living on campus, not indulging in the usual collegiate stuff, so I barely remember any of their names and I'm sure they have no remembrance of me either. But, I digress. However, I have been able to connect with several of my relatives -children of many of my first cousins and this has been neat for me -since I am the one who is the keeper of the family tree records for the most part. Prior to FB, I was relying on getting updates maybe every 3-5 years from these kids parents and now, I get to see lots of photos of them and their progeny and actually get to know my extended family a bit better through this medium. Twitter just never struck my fancy although I do have an account there too. But blogging -well that still remains my first love. And that reminds me too that I have a little "award" for you on my blog -just waiting for you to stop by and pick it up!
    And, like you, I like the fact that in blogging, I can pretty much say what I want too. Always glad to read you posts and get at least a giggle or two and sometimes, even read something at your place that addresses serious things too.

  4. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Oh, Lord have mercy, I HATE Facebook. I hate it with every fibre of my fetid breath from the jaws of hell. Or something. I think it is the most puerile excuse for social interaction of all time with the possible exception of mail order brides, and I am offended by the use of "friend" as a verb.

    Some time ago I was sent a few requests and didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings so I accepted and set up my own page. FB immediately hijacked my entire contact list and sent everyone therein a letter which purported to be from me, begging them to join FB, too. I have no idea how they did it, but I felt violated and also frustrated as there was no one to complain to.

    There should be a 12-step program for FB haters, except that I may be the only one in the universe. I still infinitely prefer blogging in which people actually write about ideas and events in more depth than "Marsha is emptying her bladder now" or "Larry is quaffing a beer."I mean, really, who facebookin' cares?

  5. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Jocelyn, I forgot to add that I ADORE the title of this post!!!

  6. Maddy Avatar

    I joined FB to connect with my brother who is in China and therefore can't get access to my blog [s]

    I don't get the quizzes.

    I'm mystified by the parties and get togethers in virtual land.

    I have no particular desire to send anyone a high five or a flower or a fish.

    This is because I am old and I just don't 'get it.'

    Twitter on the other hand, due to it's brevity, is a perfect place for an instant vent.

  7. kmkat Avatar

    I prefer Twitter, too, mainly because my niece doesn't update it eleventy-seven times a day to tell the world she is having coffee, her "babes" are still sleeping, now they are awake, they are all going shopping/swimming/to church, now she is making dinner (including a detailed menu), etc. Really, it's not only that she overdoes the updating, it's that every single one of them is so saccharin it makes my teeth hurt.

    Twitter, otoh, is more succinct and amusing. I don't think I have developed my propert Twitter voice yet, though. Too matter-of-fact. Must fix that.

  8. Jazz Avatar

    Ah, FB. I got on to see a blogging friend's page (she's an artist). She was basically posting the same as her blog, so I never went back.

    Then a few months ago, some friends from a while back found me, which was good. I was never found – or have ever looked for – people from high school or college. I don't really see the point.

    What I fail to understand – and what keeps me from ever going there except if I have a message is all the stupid stuff in the form of Joe Blo is drinking his coffee. Joe Blo is feeling a bit depressed today.

    I mean seriously do I give a damn? (That's a retorical question by the way)

  9. Becky Cazares Avatar
    Becky Cazares

    I see FB as about halfway between blogging and twitter. See, on your blog posts we get to talk in complete sentences and rattle on a bit. Your comments on twitter are evocative and I often want to respond but can't (or at least haven't figgered out how). But Facebook is a nice in-between where we (or your friends do) get to "like" your updates or photos without a huge blank comment square taunting our lack of articulation.

    I think it will grow on you.

    (P.S. In Farm Town, we don't lose track of our cattle! Hmph! Must have been FarmVILLE!)

  10. phd in yogurtry Avatar
    phd in yogurtry

    You have pretty much summed up my feelings about FB. In a more entertaining way than I could have, I might add.

    I see FB as a social tool that I can use when need be, I can ignore it. Mostly the latter.

    Some people have a knack (or a gift) for writing entertaining, engaging, insightful updates.

    And others? Um, they don't.

  11. Star Avatar

    First of all, don't ever stop blogging. Second, FB quizzes remind me of jr. high & slam books. Last, have you tried playing Bejeweled Blitz, because it is addicting.

  12. lime Avatar

    LOL! i joined facebook because my oldest limelette wanted to be on it and i=have me as a friend. i figured it was a good way to keep tabs on her AND if a teenager invites you into her world you simply do not wait to be asked twice, that may not occur. i have however, set my profile to be unsearchable mainly because i don't want to have a bunch of people from my past hounding me, or even some people from my present. but i will admit to being a quiz junkie. they make me laugh.

  13. Shelley Avatar

    What baffles me the most about Facebook is when I get friend requests from people that went to the same high school I went to. Notice I didn't say "friends from high school." These are people that would not have given me the time of day in high school. Call me childish, but I don't want to be friends with them. And I have no idea why they would want to be friends with me. I have friends, and I like them, and only one of them is actually from high school.

    I'm kind of addicted to Farmtown at the moment though, and no wandering cattle. I need a job, I think.

  14. flutter Avatar

    did you know I can crack a walnut with my butt? If you were my friend on facebook you would.

  15. Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings Avatar
    Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings

    Yeah, I'd comment more, but I have to tell my Facebook friends that I have to pee and I think I may be broke because of those extra Doritoes I bought yesterday.



  16. Anonymous Avatar

    If FB makes you do more blogging like this and the last, then I'm all for it. Plus I got a lovely trip to Minneapolis from FB: so there, it can lead to real life connections.
    I'm a believer, of the Monkeys variety.


  17. Liam Avatar

    My girlfriend is on facebook and since we live together and share a computer. It drives me nuts. I HATE Facebook.

  18. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    I'm not a FBer. I don't see doing it either. I don't relish getting in touch with people I've left far behind.
    As for Twitter, I view it as a marketing tool, but not as a social network because it's so one-sided.

  19. Pam Avatar

    Great post Jocelyn. I twitterless and FB deficient. Suits me just fine. For those who are having twitter withdrawal, I'm off now to have my breakfast cereal of cornflakes with fruit.

  20. secret agent woman Avatar
    secret agent woman

    You have neatly summed up everything I loathe about FB and why I deactivated my account.

  21. actonbell Avatar

    Hear, hear! I'd been a rather inactive FB member for awhile, just to look in on certain family members, but I recently got back in touch with a couple old friends and this was quite gratifying. They don't post often, but we've exchanged emails, and it's great.

    I agree with several other comments here, in that I wish some of my youngest coworkers had not added me as friends; refusing did not seem to be a possible course, but–it censors me. It's awkward.

    And then there are the silly quizzes, and the revealing polls, and the pets and fairies and games…I'm happy to hear that my sister, recovering from back surgery, is scoring high in all these games, but I would personally be embarrassed to have that as my news for the day:)

    Good post, as always:)

  22. Midlife Jobhunter Avatar
    Midlife Jobhunter

    "that fosters exploration and reflection, that urges storytelling, that creates an audience of new readers/friends who don’t necessarily grow only out of previous life experiences who are drawn to the site through choice."

    Exceptionally put. I've been trying to verbalize/write why I blog. Thank you for making it so simple.

  23. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    I think I'm in love with Liam, who hates Facebook, too.

  24. chelle Avatar

    That picture creeps me out.

    Ahh Facebook. See I like to snoop. I left home never to look back, and now I am all like successful 😛 HA! Not really but I am happy and so not the person I was back then which SHOCKED a lot of my old mates. Now I love seeing that they married, had babies OR that they have not changed AT ALL.

    I do not do quizes or play the games though who has time for that?

  25. Ash Avatar

    I am 21, and just as a side note, I KNOW I have a vagina (babies tend to reaffirm that suspicion), and also am mystified by the flowers, "what Powerpuff girl" quizzes and other such NONSENSE on Facebook. but it lets me post longer status messages than Twitter, and I like to ramble. so I stay.

  26. Minnesota Matron Avatar
    Minnesota Matron

    Thanks for the Dan Savage recommendation! I didn't know about the podcasts but love the guy!

  27. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar


    You don't, like, EAT the walnut after that, do you?

  28. jess Avatar

    Pshaw, I agree with Flutter. If you were MY friend on FB you'd be having way more fun. 😉 I hate those quizzes and requests and virtual Starbucks drinks with a passion too, but I've reconnected with some hilarious friends on FB and we make it work for us.

  29. Karen MEG Avatar
    Karen MEG

    I joined FB ages ago, hooked into it when a twenty-something Mom in our playgroup used it to organize playdates almost 3 years ago… I was the oldest mom on the block, and apparently the oldest person on FB. I was addicted to it for a few months. Now my hubs is on it everyday.

    So I'm not the oldest anymore, from the explosion in the last year of so. So many parents are going on there, parents of university aged kids too, to keep tabs…and we've had high school reunions organized through there. For a lark I "friended" some of the popular kids, even though they likely don't even remember who the heck I am!

    The buck sorta stopped for me when my boyfriend from high school/university tried to friend me after some slightly uncomfortable e:mails.

    But I'm still there occasionally, although I agree, blogging trumps it every time, and I'm only so-so on the twitter thing.

    Are you my FB friend, BTW? I'll look for ya ;)!

  30. Patois Avatar

    I adore this. The friending of people I was never friends with long, long, long ago is totally foreign to me. The best thing I've done with FB is feed my Twitter blurbs into it. My "real" FB friends then reply to my nonsensical statments as opposed to giving me a fictional cocktail or a fake flower or, damn it, an invitation to play a trivia game.

  31. Yo is Me Avatar
    Yo is Me

    why aren't we facebook friends?

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