Friday, January 8, 2010

I only want real friends on Facebook

Let me first say that I defy many stereotypes. Case in point: this past holiday season I spent part of my winter break in Toronto with family members. Now, if you have ever spent any time with the large and extended Chinese Jamaican family that is the "Y" family (those of you related to me reading this know what I mean) then you will at some point or another been introduced to dominoes. There was one day that I literally didn't change out of my PJs and just played round after round of dominoes with aunts and cousins. Of course part of domino scoring is about adding up the tiles in your hand (depending on what game you play). And for the life of me, when confronted with adding up multiple figures that don't end in a 5 of 0, I become stymied. My cousins continually laughed and teased me about this defect--I kept begging for a calculator--and my aunt would simply add up my tiles for me, from time to time, when my own computational skills were just too slow to start a new game.

Now I suppose one could say that while I defy the "good-at-math" stereotype of the Asian nerd, I am perhaps perpetuating the "Math's-hard" mentality of that infamous talking Barbie doll (and the stereotype that girls aren't good at math). Guess you win some and you lose some.

But one area that I really DO defy all expectations of the Asian as computer nerd/tech geek whiz, is text messaging and social networking.

Text messaging, I know, is what everyone is doing nowadays--and it has its conveniences and potentially can save my life. Say I was kidnapped and put in the trunk of a car with my hands tied in front of me. With the use of my opposable thumbs, I could flip open my cell phone and text a message to friends to come rescue me. But aside from this implausible scenario, I can't imagine the need to send text messages--and those few friends and family members who have texted me know that I never reply--I simply pick up the phone to call them or send an email in return.

As for social networking, I've been asked to join Linked In and I have--and I have politely accepted all invitations because to say no seems rude, although I don't really understand Linked In and/or make no real use of it myself except to accept invitations from friends and colleagues. I don't twitter, or have a My Space Page and never got into Friendster when it was hot way back when, and prefer not to chat with people on gmail or any other chat forum. And I resisted Facebook for as long as I could until it became the place to have certain professional conversations--like different professional groups have Facebook Pages, so you really can't get away with not being on Facebook anymore, at least if you work in the fields that I work in.

But here's the thing I can't figure out (and yes, I know I am going to sound like a curmudgeonly 82 year old man shouting "You kids get off my lawn!): if I'm not really your friend (or professional colleague/acquaintance) in real life, why would I want to be friends with you now? And if we were never friends in high school, why are you looking me up to be friends over twenty years later? Seriously, I've received friend requests from the most random people--in some cases total strangers who happen to know one person in common with me--and that person is usually a professional colleague I once shook hands with at a conference 2 years ago. In some other cases it's folks from high school or middle school even who have found me and want to be friends with me--but if we are to be brutally honest with one another, we'd have to admit that we were never really friends. Yes, I may have signed your yearbook and you may have signed mine, because back then it's what you DID--you accumulated signatures in your yearbook (or at least I did) out of a sense of reciprocity or popularity or herd mentality. But if we never exchanged a meaningful conversation in high school and my only vague memory of you is that we may have shared Mr. Hokom's pre-calculus class, then why on earth are you trying to be friends with me now?!

Yes, I am ranting. Yes, I recognize the value of social networking. I even suspect that I could come up with something profound about race and social networking--about the ways in which it's a double-edged sword--easier for the white supremacists and bigots of all stripes and sub-groups (I haven't tried searching for this but I bet there's a Facebook group dedicated to hating mixed race black-Asian children living in Texas whose parents are veterans of a foreign war) it's also a space in which allies working for various social justice causes can find common cause and work together on issues (can anyone say Barak Obama's presidential campaign? Or the Courage Campaign's fight against Proposition 8 in California?). And certainly I have appreciated the many wonderful readers of this blog who have added to and at times challenged the different conversations I've been delighted to engage in, here.

But really, can you kids just get off my lawn?!!! And stop trying to be friends with me. I don't have the time right now. You see, I'm too busy looking for my old Smith Corona, and I'll be playing my 78s on the Victrola and cranking up the old Model T to go take in a talkie tonight.


Jennifer Imazeki said...

Ha! I know exactly what you mean! I am actually a pretty avid Facebooker but I am only FB friends with people that I would also call friends in the real world. There are a bunch of high school people that I friended when I first joined, before I really understood how FB works, but I've since put them in a group called 'NotReallyFriends' and set my settings so I don't see anything they post and they can't really see anything I post (i.e., they can see my profile but to them, it just looks like I never post anything). I know I could drop them as friends but that seems too rude. Now, I only accept friend requests from people I already know and like - and I like the way FB lets me keep up with friends who I otherwise don't talk to very often - but whenever I get a request from someone I don't know or am not friends with, I always wonder why the heck they would even want to be in touch with me. It's like they are still in high school and trying to prove they are popular by gathering as many friends as they can. It's bizarre to me.

Genepool said...

I'd say your lack of enthusiasm over the whole social networking phenomenon has little to with race and more to do with (Sorry Jen) your age.

I am also one of those people (in their 40's) who just really doesn't see the point of texting or jotting down notes on a web site for others to follow on my minute to minute goings on. Why would anyone care and why would I want them to know?

I'll go one further and say that we have one cell phone in my house. I only carry it under very specific circumstances and mostly find it to be a very intrusive and annoying device.

If I am at the store or shopping in general or just out with the kids to let them run around a bit, the LAST thing I want is for someone to demand my attention from a remote location and interrupt whatever it is I am doing. I have an answering machine at home, please leave a message, I'll call you back. (Probably)

I don't Facebook, Twitter, Myspace or any of that other stuff. Chances are, if I like you well enough to consider you a friend or family, you already know everything I might put on there.

I admit my profession keeps me leery of these sorts of sites as well. I have had way too many briefings on people being stalked, harassed and/or abducted by "Friends" they made online. Call me paranoid, a little goes a long way.

I tend to embrace most new technology, but this SHARE SHARE SHARE mentality people have with their private lives via internet interface is not of them. Guess I'm just square.

Unknown said...
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Jennifer said...

Hi Jennifer and Genepool,

I don't have much to add to your comments--you have already read my curmudgeonly comments about FB, although I do think it is a very smart social networking tool--I just think I'm not much of a social networking gal.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by!