Dear Courtney Simms Burnette,
Yes, I received your friend request on facebook and I chose to ignore it. But just this once I will explain why I clicked the “ignore” button.
When I first joined facebook, I thought that people requested friendships as a way of popping in and saying, “Hello.” I didn’t realize that they were there to stay. And before I knew it, I had hundreds of friends all up in my business. I had friends who I had met only once, friends who I wouldn’t recognize in public, and friends who were- well, you know- not actually my friends. And I had friends who, in real, live life, I knew but who were not real, live friends of mine- like some of the people I know from work. You may have the same thing going on with your facebook friends.
Visiting facebook meant that I had dozens of new things to read several times every day from people I had accidentally chosen to keep up with. I was seeing pictures of their kids, hearing about things that happened at work, seeing their vacation photos, seeing the cute sayings and pictures that they would post, and hearing about their politics and religion. Courtney, some people amazed me at the level of intimacy about their lives that they would share with me, pretty much a stranger. Some dazzled me with their bad language. Some astonished me with their lack of regard for my own politics or religion. A few even drove me about crazy with their constant chatter, and I learned that I could subsequently hide people like that.
Then it occurred to me that they were all watching me and everything that I posted- all my photos, my status updates, my comments responding to others’ comments. I was paralyzed with fear that I was revealing too much of my personal life to people I didn’t know, didn’t want to know any better, or maybe didn’t necessarily care one way or the other about.
So one day, Courtney, I started deleting. It dawned on me that at some point someone must have deleted me and that I had not found out or noticed, so I concluded that a message does not appear on my wall saying that I deleted the following friends 22 minutes ago, nor does a message go to the former friend that I deleted them. (While I was deleting friends, I saw that Maureen O’Connell Kingman from work had over 2,000 friends. I realized that I must mean little to her.)
In one day, I deleted 70 people.
Once I started deleting, I felt freed up to post what I wanted to, to reveal myself, to share my politics and my religion, to say personal things about my day. I didn’t have strangers needing to hear “Happy Birthday” from me. I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes when Jenny Friedringer got a pair of diamond earrings and a 9 mm Glock for Mother’s Day. I didn’t have to listen to Lauren Lee Smith Sorenson talk about her husband leaving his wet bath towel on the floor. I didn’t have to scroll past pictures of Wayne Millridge’s Mountain Dew can patio sculpture to see what happened with my friend’s knee surgery, and I no longer had to hear the girl with 2,000 friends tell me how I was not saved. I was relieved to have cleaned house.
Courtney, I want you to know that when you requested to be friends with me, I did click on your picture to see your profile. First, let me tell you that you should adjust your privacy settings. Second, it took me a little while to remember where I’d met you. Third, I noticed that you and I, since we don’t already have a friendly relationship established from real, live life, are unlikely to be compatible, given the serious stance that I noticed you have on matters where I have the opposite opinion. You would, Courtney, cramp my style. So as politely as I can, I’ve chosen to “ignore” your friend request.
I hope you understand.
Oh, and fourth, you know that picture of you and your husband on the cruise? I have that exact same sundress.