I didn’t request you as a friend on Facebook.
There, I said it.
And it’s because I have Facebook FriendRequest Phobia©.
I joined Facebook about a year ago. And from the beginning, the whole thing scared me. I was immediately poked. And then I was pelted with a virtual snowball. What the–?
For months, I just lurked. I read the Status Updates and clicked through to look at other people’s friends.
My Inbox quickly filled up with Friend Requests from former co-workers, high school friends and family members.
I loved logging on and seeing the icon with the number of Friend Requests. (And don’t even pretend like you’re not excited when you see lots of Friend Requests. Or that you’re not bummed when you don’t have any.)
But Facebook is high school all over again. And for me, this comes with some issues…
I wasn’t a part of the In crowd in high school. I orbited a few popular circles. And somehow, all my closest friends (and my high school boyfriend) had one foot in the popular crowd. But I was firmly in the Other category, possibly the only cheerleader in the history of the sport who didn’t fit the mold of swingy hair, football player beau and head-turning cuteness.
So I approach things like Facebook with extreme caution. People can request my friendship? And I can Confirm or Ignore? Interesting.
But wait. If I ask for someone’s friendship, they can Confirm or Ignore me too?
Flashback to: Fifth grade and the constant teasing. Seventh grade and Ronald Hicks nicknaming me “Aliya The Cheetah” in honor of my freckled face. Eighth grade Truth-or-Dare, when my crush, Stephen, was dared to kiss me (on the cheek for God’s sake!) and he took Truth instead; the junior prom, when my boyfriend and I were scrambling to find a cool table and end up sitting with the other couples who didn’t have anyone else to sit with… freshman year of college, when the cute boy who seemed like he might be checking for me told his roommates to say he wasn’t at home when I stopped by to say hello….
Realizing that I could be Ignored on Facebook took me to a dark place. I’m a grown woman. Married. Children. I should not be concerned about being Ignored. But I was! I couldn’t bear the thought of requesting a friendship and being Ignored!
So I made a solemn vow. I would never, ever, request someone’s Friendship. If they requested me, great. But I’d never put myself out there.
I broke my own rule only once. For a man we’ll call Gelson Norge.
Gelson Norge is the patron saint of all writers with a background in urban entertainment. I’ve always felt a special connection to him since we both started out at Billboard, though he was long gone by the time I arrived. He’s excelled in every genre of media: fiction, nonfiction and film.
He’s my idol.
Many years ago, I wrote a book proposal called Off The Record: The Rise and Fall Of Hip-Hop Journalism. I called Gelson Norge and he graciously agreed to talk to me. I went to his office in Manhattan and he gave me two hours of his time, breaking down the history of the coverage of urban music in mainstream publications before magazines like The Source and VIBE existed.
I would run into Gelson Norge from time to time over the years and he always had a word of advice for me. He even gave me the name and number of the woman who would become my first literary agent.
So in my early days of Facebook-ing, I ran into Gelson at a listening session for Erykah Badu’s latest album. We ended up sitting next to each other. I re-introduced myself to him and we had a great conversation.
“What happened to the book you were working on?” he asked.
“A few editors loved the idea,” I said. “But they all feared no one would actually go out and buy it.”
“I hear that,” Gelson said. “But I still think it’s a great idea.”
Gelson took out his Blackberry and gave me the name and number of an editor he thought would be interested in the book. We continued to small talk for a while before we went our separate ways.
And I went home and sent him a Friend Request.
I sent a note along with my request:
“Gelson, so good to see you at the listening session. Thank you so much for your help and suggestions, I really appreciate it!”
Surely he wouldn’t Ignore me. Right?
Well, I forgot about the Friend Request. Until I saw him pop up in my News Feed. I clicked on his picture and noticed that he wasn’t on my Friend List.
I had been Ignored.
Just as I feared! The very reason I didn’t send out requests! Hmph.
Now. I’m sure there are many of you who will say, you’re pathetic. It’s not that serious. Get over it.
I will do no such thing.
After Gelson’s snub, I re-dedicated myself to not sending out Friend Requests and I stuck with it.
But Facebook needs the whole universe to be connected. I guess so that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, can effectively take over the world at some point. So the site has a way of tricking me into submitting a Friend Request. And it took me months to figure it out.
It’s called the Friend Suggestion.
It comes up in your InBox. It looks like a FriendRequest. It gives you the option of Confirm or Ignore. But it’s NOT a friend request.
It’s another Friend who has SUGGESTED you become friends with someone else. The nerve!
A few times, before I understood what was going on, I would click on Confirm. And then weeks would go by and I would get a message:
So-and-so had accepted your Friend Request.
Wha–? Accepted my whaa? Hmph! I never asked for your friendship!
Well, it turns out, I had.
And I don’t like that one bit.
These days, I find myself staring at the screen when a Friend Request pops up. Is this for real? Is this a suggestion? Or some other trickiness Facebook’s peddling?
Here’s a great example.
Harve Pierre has been down with BadBoy since it’s inception. He’s served as president and has done vocal and production work for everyone from Faith Evans and Total to Carl Thomas and Black Rob. I’ve interviewed him many times for different Bad-Boy related stories but I doubt he remembers me. So when I got this faux-FriendRequest a few weeks ago, I looked closely, saw it wasn’t a true request and I ignored it.
Facebook has another dastardly plan to get us all connected. It’s called the People You May Know feature. And it’s on the right hand side of your screen. Usually, I know at least one of the three people featured. But I can never get myself to submit. I’ve seen good friends in that feature. Their pictures calling out to me, sayin, girl, you’re not gonna send me a FriendRequest? Don’t be like that. But I just. can’t. do. it. The first thing I think is: Have they seen me in that section? If they have, they didn’t send me a Friend Request…
And every time I sign in, there’s three more people staring at me, making me feel guilty. Let’s see who Facebook thinks I should be Friends with right now.
I don’t know Nicole or Derrick.
But Karen Good! She’s one of my favorite writers. Period.
Karen wrote a cover story for VIBE on Brandy back in April of 1998.
And this story changed the way I looked at celebrity features. The way Karen captures the cadence and flow of her subject’s voice is unparalleled. I wish I could post an excerpt. But I couldn’t find one online. All I remember was that Karen was in Brandy’s bedroom, as Brandy prepared for a date with Wanya from Boyz II Men. I remember a scene where her mother was standing in the doorway, observing the scene and not being happy about it but knowing she couldn’t do anything about it. It was sheer genius. Trust me.
Anyway. I’d love for Karen to be a FacebookFriend. But the insecure high-school part of me doesn’t want to send her a request. If she Ignored my request, I’d feel dumb. And believe me, I totally understand that some people want to keep their Facebook pages tight. And limit it to close friends and family. (Right, Ex-Boyfriend Who Deleted Me?!)
So I sigh. And I don’t click.
Later on today, I get another set of three folks that Facebook thinks I should know.
At the top is Farai Chideya, former host of News and Notes on NPR. She interviewed me for the show after my story on Malcolm Shabazz was published.
If you’d like to listen to the interview click here. Sidebar: How does NPR make everyone’s voice sound so soft and soothing? I felt like even if I wanted to yell, it would come out like a whisper…
Anyway. I’d love for Farai to be my Friend. Still not sure if my pride will let me request her Friendship.
The real test is on that same page. Right underneath Farai is the name Lynette Lee. I grew up across the street from Lynette and we lived on the same block my whole life. She actually babysat me a time or two. And she was like the neighborhood mom. Except she wouldn’t (necessarily) tell on you if she saw you doing something you had no business doing.
How could I NOT submit a FriendRequest to Lynette? Well, a rule is a rule. Right?
Wrong! Rules are made to be broken gosh darnit! And as I open myself up to you Dear Readers, I will take this opportunity to stop being a shallow, prideful, insecure loser. As soon as I press Publish on this post, I will send out Friend Requests to Karen Good, Farai Chideya and Lynette Lee. Hell, I’m gonna throw one to Harve Pierre too. What could it hurt? I will not be afraid of being Ignored!
Dear Readers, how do you handle Friend Requests? Be honest with me, do you double back and check to see if people have accepted your request? Do you feel a way when you see that you’ve been Ignored? Does anyone else have an Confirm-or-Ignore-only policy like me? I’d love to hear from you…
P.S. A few weeks ago, I got a FriendRequest from Gelson Norge. I accepted without hesitation. =)