Saturday, December 06, 2008

Friending: a verb

Last winter I finally took the plunge and joined Facebook, ostensibly for the professional networking opportunities, but also to see if I could link back up with friends and former acquaintances from the past.

It's been an interesting experience on several levels. First, I've come to realize how much I tend to categorize people into different segments of my life. I take the word 'friend' to heart and though it's a loose term taken lightly (and even as a verb) on Facebook, I've thought twice about some of the friend requests I've gotten, and even some that I've sent out. People I barely know -- some of whom I don't necessarily like -- have sent friend requests to me, and I've been hesitant to send out invitations to other people, thinking that I may be presuming too much of the acquaintanceship. After all, one's Facebook friends can see all of the activity you put on your page. If you tend to compartmentalize your life the way I do, it's a bit scary to open yourself up to that much observation.

Likewise, you're apt to find out some interesting things about people you don't know that well. I recently took an improv class in New York, and while I knew a lot of the people in the group were younger than I, I didn't find out just how young until we all started friending each other after our graduation show. The woman who'd basically labeled herself as the class Methuselah is more than 10 years younger than I am. And most of the other people were born sometime during my college years. I have no clue if they realized how old I am, but it made me wonder, and it freaked me out a little.

But yeah, it has made me realize how much I do hold back. There have been times in my life when I have been extraordinarily open with people, but then other times I've been told I'm hard to get to know, that I put up a wall. The internet can serve as a cathartic environment, kind of like talking to a stranger on an airplane or a bar, and the anonymity is a hugely freeing factor for me, personally. But the big question, really, is what is the risk? Yeah, from a professional standpoint, you don't want to be known for some freaky hobby or association, but what are the chances? And really, what's the harm in people knowing who you really are? Maybe I need to take this a little less seriously and enjoy it for what it is.

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