Friendship can be a tricky thing. What does it mean to be a friend? I know I’ve covered this before, but please indulge me.
Remember when the word friend was a noun and not a verb? It was only that, understood and accepted, until long about 2004 when Mark Zuckerberg and his cohorts at Harvard invented what became Facebook.
In the last 2 days, I’ve gotten a couple of unsolicited invitations to “friend” people on Facebook. One was from a guy whom I’ll call Z. Z. is Arabic. I got that from his name. I have never met Z. Nor is it likely since he lives in the Netherlands. In fact, his profile says he’s from Netherlands, Missouri. I was willing to overlook his geographical lapses, but then I noticed all of his pictures were of…himself. Getting into his sports car. Getting out of his sports car. And did I mention he’s a Muslim? I would have loved to talk faith issues across all those midwest miles, but lo and behold, he withdrew his friend request. Guess if you snooze, you lose. My junior high band teacher Mr. Kvech was right.
The second one is from a guy who lives in London. He’s a 40-something dad (I think) of a young son. I saw the pictures on his profile. They looked happy. But there isn’t much to his profile. Maybe he attended one of the Microsoft conferences where I take notes bi-annually? I rarely accept friend requests from people who friend me out of the blue. I like knowing them in some context, past or present, or at least having a friend-of-a-friend connection. Curious, I emailed him. Do I know you from somewhere? Why do you want to be friends with me? I wasn’t trying to be standoffish, only trying to establish common ground. I thought maybe he’d read a blog post or mine or my insanely witty status updates.
He emailed back that he was a single dad and he was attracted to my picture. And he is a “man of different thoughts and feelings”. Huh. I tried not to fall into the pit of thinking “this is a pickup from across the Atlantic”, so I responded by telling him I’m married with two children and that we live in the UNITED STATES.
His response. “Oh, you married?”
Yes. Yes, I am. So much for having a British pen pal.
Friendship in the here and now is difficult enough. Communicating clearly, understanding and being understood face to face poses unique challenges. It’s very possible neither of these men are who they say they are. Anyone can create an online persona. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible both of these men were genuinely reaching out to me in a platonic fashion. In this case, however, pictures are worth a thousand words. And a few words can negate any pictures.