Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Social Awkwardness online

Imagine the following scenario if you will. You meet an old classmate from school. Even back then you didn't know anything meaningful about him/her. That person, to you, just sat in the back bench of class, ate lunch at the quadrangle near the parking lot, took the school bus home. That person was just an agglomerated set of factoids; never quite a friend or someone you got to know well. Years on, with the tides of time and space separating the two of you- you meet at a school reunion or bump unexpectedly at a social gathering.

After a brief jogging of memory and after the existing bits of information verified like an ATM machine asking for a PIN code, you shake your head awkwardly and look for things to talk about. The topics that most people discuss when they haven't seen each other in the longest while has been exhausted: what I did after school, where I worked, how I met my wife and what I do to relax on weekends.

Then you shake hands, exchange e-mail addresses or cards and promise them you'll “keep in touch”. They do the same. The phone never rings, no new mails in the inbox and no invitations to their home for dinner to catch up.

If that wasn't bad enough, this whole thing now plays out into the virtual world thanks to social networking. Initially I used to accept invites without thought. But then I wondered, what was the point, if the only interaction I did was to wish them a happy birthday (which I did only because Facebook reminded me about)?

Top reasons for invites:

  • Because you were my classmate.

  • We met up at that event a while back remember and spoke for five minutes?”

  • We have mutual friends, so yeah....”

I like to my keep my network manageable and meaningful. It's not that I don't want to be friend or anything like that. If I add you, your network of friends from college, work and others will seep into mine. I will have a view of your world even when I don't want to. Every picture you tag, every video you put up, every piece of shit application you or your friends use will be visible to me. And likewise my network will be visible to you. We can be friends but why drag out my other friends into it? Tweak the settings you say? I'd love to- but with say 500 friends on my list, how long would it take for me to create the necessary customizations?

So let's remedy the situation. Give me a number. Let's talk and catch up. If we feel that the friendship (which might have never existed to begin with though...) can be salvaged, then let's consider meeting up over a cup of coffee or lunch. Then let's consider Facebook. Or we can just drop it if things don't work. Let's not stretch out a moment of awkwardness into one that happens every time we log on.

Now if you don't mind, I'll be denying your request.


Anonymous said...

"let's consider meeting up over a cup of coffee or lunch. Then let's consider Facebook"
So, is being facebook friends, taking the "relationship to the next level"? I think it should be quite the other way around.

Aarthi said...

Your post is just as simple and just as uncomplicated that friends and networking should ideally be.Can't agree more!