Networking Nitwittery

Look, folks, it’s just common sense. You don’t ask a woman how old she is, you don’t ask anyone how much they weigh, you don’t talk about politics or religion, and you don’t tell someone that you know they’ve unfollowed/unfriended you on the internet.

There is absolutely no situation in which this doesn’t make the other person feel like a jerk, even if they had a valid reason (most people do). And there is absolutely nothing the other person can say to you now that’s not going to look like an excuse.

This is especially horrific if this other person IS YOUR FRIEND IN REAL LIFE.

With all the crazy social networking that’s available now, some folks are obsessed with their electronic footprint so much that they forget about REAL LIFE. You know, the sun that shines and the wind that blows and the rain that falls. The people who smile at you and talk to you and shake your hand. Want to know who I met yesterday? Heather. She works at Starbucks. Want to know how? After a brief conversation while she made my frappaccino, I introduced myself and shook her hand. “You know everybody,” said Fairy Goddaughter the Younger. “That’s because I introduce myself,” I said.

I like people. I like getting to know people. I like finding people who share my interests, and who bring topics to the table that I don’t know much about: exotic world travel, spelunking, ancient musical instruments of Africa. The internet paved the way for the children of the twenty-first century to meet these people all over the world. It sparked a global conversation. It made me feel that I could go anywhere in the world and not be a stranger.

And then it became high school all over again.

I do not understand people on Twitter who only follow people that follow them. Similarly, I do not understand people on Facebook who refuse to accept an invitation from someone they don’t already know in person.  The latter makes a little more sense, if you want to only keep up with family members or keep things “private,” but dude, seriously? If your profile is on the internet, it’s not sacred or safe. Nothing is. And chances are you probably have half these people in your phone book anyway.

Some of those family members on Facebook I wish I didn’t know. They act like idiots, and in any other world I wouldn’t follow them. But I need to follow them so I’m not caught quite so unawares when my mother calls me to tell me someone is in jail. Or pregnant. Or leading a revolution halfway around the world.

All of you people subscribing to any of those services (or who have just memorized their friends lists) that tell you when someone has unfollowed/unfriended you, CUT IT OUT RIGHT NOW. You are doing harm to yourself, both mentally and socially.

I’ve unfollowed a couple of friends, a few times. I’ll give you two examples, and I’ll name names, because these two people are my FRIENDS IN REAL LIFE. If I saw them walking past, I would cross the street to give them a hug. I care about them dearly and value both their insight and opinion. But they both blog A LOT. I’m talking about Jay Lake and Cheryl Morgan.

Back when I was at the day job, I could only check in to Twitter periodically. Between the two of them, Jay & Cheryl could fill up my entire feed for pages. It sucked that I couldn’t read what they were actually saying between their automatic “new blog post” entries, but they could still @reply to me and we could chat that way. And we did. I have their websites bookmarked and we’re also friends on Facebook — it’s not like we were out of touch. Plus, you know…there’s this whole email thing. Jay might have wondered why I added him on Twitter five or six times. Hopefully he didn’t. And if he did, he never said anything. Know why? Because it doesn’t matter. We’re friends in REAL LIFE.

I would like to point out a big difference between Social Networking and REAL LIFE. What you get on Facebook and Twitter is the Real Me, but it’s only about 60% the real me. It’s the Princess Alethea you’d meet while mingling at a party. I don’t blog every time I have cramps or burst into tears (the latter far more often than the former). I don’t talk about money problems, or publisher frustrations, or personal issues. I don’t talk about why I don’t have pets or children. When horrible things happen in my life, I don’t really want you to know. You know why? Because *I* don’t want to look back on my blog and remember that.

One day there are going to be so many visitors to this blog and comments, I won’t be able to check them all. I’m going to miss something clever my mother says — just like I missed someone’s MySpace wedding invitation that one time — and I’m going to be sad about that. But it’s something that happens, and I accept that.

I want people to check in with me because I’m fun and sunshiny and smiley, and occasionally I fall into amazing opportunities…or manholes the size of Mars…and I do it with grace and aplomb and fairy dust. History is written by the victors. I have the ability to write the version of my life I like to pretend I live. If you don’t follow me or friend me or stalk me or whatever, that’s totally fine. I’m sure you have better things to do.

There are jerks out there. You follow them on Twitter. You’ve retweeted them when they asked you to. They have done horrible things to decent people, and you don’t know this because they don’t say, “Hey I cheated on my girlfriend today” or “I swindled my best friend out of $600” or “There’s a twelve-year-old girl in my basement.” What you see of their lives is all they choose to tell you. I simply choose to tell you more. I still don’t tell you everything.

You’re welcome.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go call my mother. xox