Warning! Facebook, IM and Twitter Can Be Hazardous to Your Ego (Please “Like” This!)
“Okay, I’ll be over as soon as I can.” Click.
How rude, I always think. Does anyone actually do that in real life? Aren’t we taught pretty much from day one that it’s impolite to ask a woman her age, not to forget to say “please” and “thank you,” and never take our leave (from a party, a city, a phone conversation) without bidding adieu.
I rarely use the phone to talk to people anymore (and in this age of texting, who does?), but when I do, I try to remember the proper exit etiquette. If only people were so polite online. The Internet is a great place, bringing people together, re-introducing long-lost friends (thank you, Facebook), but it’s also given people yet another way to disrespect and hurt the ones they love and hate.
I can’t count the times I’ve been talking to someone on MSN Messenger only to have them disappear mid-conversation without so much as a “f**k you.” The other day I was IM’ing with an acquaintance in Buenos Aires, who asked me if I was in Argentina. Slightly perturbed because she obviously hadn’t been keeping up with my Facebook status updates, I put on my diplomatic face and began typing back.
ME: “Estoy en Asia. No sabias que ya vivo en Australia?”
HER: “No! Cuando regresas a Buenos Aires?”
ME: “No se. Un dia en el futuro. Para ahora vivo en Australia.”
HER: “Que malo! Querria a verte!”
(TRANSLATION ME: I’m living in Australia, hanging out in Asia, and I don’t know when I’ll be back in BA. HER: She’s crushed because she wants to see me.)
Click. Nothing else. Just like that, she was offline. I knew it wasn’t something I’d said because she’d had the last word. I wondered if she would have just walked away had we been talking face to face. That would have been so Erica Kane. I think I saw her do that on “All My Children” last week. Or maybe it was her doppelgänger Jane.
Then I got annoyed that she (my friend in BA, not Erica Kane — or her double!) hadn’t been keeping up with my exploits on Facebook. I mean, if she was so desperate to see me, shouldn’t she at least know what continent I’m on — or do her research? Isn’t that the purpose of Facebook, after all? Shameless self-promotion, keeping up with all the minutiae of everyone’s lives and looking at photo after photo of their cute babies?
In reality, Facebook is so much more than that. It’s a three-act play, bringing people together in act one (so and so are “in a relationship,” or so and so “would like to add you as a friend”), tearing them apart in the second (now they’re “complicated,” or the writing is no longer on the “wall”), and ripping them to shreds in the third (first they defriend, then block, each other).
I recently read that Chris Colfer found out that next season would be his last on “Glee” via Twitter. It’s not the first time that bad news has been broken so un-gently and inappropriately online. I wonder how many people have found out about being dumped when their significant other changed his or her romantic status to “single” or discovered that there’s trouble in paradise due to a cryptic “It’s complicated.” What’s so complicated about that? It’s just rude.
It’s bad enough when nobody comments on your status updates or bothers to “like” your posts. Or when someone has enough time for status updates or posting new photos but not enough to respond to your emails or text messages. And there are those creepy applications that are more vile than Farmville ever was, where people compare their friends or answer questions about them, and their friends are instantly delivered the option of uncovering the results. (Do I really need to know whether my cousin thinks I’m cute?)
Few Facebook snubs, however, are worse than being suddenly defriended, or having a friend request ignored for days, for weeks, forever. I’ve been let go, and I’ve done my share of letting go during the Facebook era, but these days, I use those “delete” and “ignore” tabs sparingly. Why hurt someone just because Facebook makes it so easy?
I recently had a spat with a friend that lasted less than 24 hours. It took a week after we’d kissed and made up for me to realize that he’d defriended me during our short stand-off. At first I was touched. He rarely uses Faceook, so the fact that he rushed to the computer to dump me from his list of friends must mean that he really cares. But eventually, my “Ah, he loves me,” turned to “How dare he?” To make matters worse, he took an entire week to re-friend me.
Things between us are fine now. I’ve forgiven, but I won’t forget. Though that particular falling out is behind us, every time I log onto Facebook and see one of his status updates, I breathe a sigh of relief. We’re still on! I don’t know which is more pathetic: my doing this or someone sitting around all night looking at a phone that never beeps to announce an incoming call, text or voice mail.
Personally, I’d prefer the silent telephone because at least that’s a private snub — it’s between the snubber, the snubbed, and the mobile device. Defriending, though, is there for the world to see — at least anyone with access to your friends list and enough free time to notice when someone is no longer on it. It’s like asking for a divorce in front of everyone, or publicly denouncing a friendship, which, come to think of it, I’ve only ever seen on TV.
I mean, who would do that in real life?
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