So what’s the deal? Why this anxiety and awkwardness when you meet a Facefriend in real time?
With a social networking site like Facebook, there is no spatial or social context for those ‘encounters’ with your new friends.
Before the birth of online networking (and aside from it) if you had a conversation or a funny moment with someone there was first, a journey that led to that experience, and then second, a social context in which that experience took place. It usually went something like this – you go to John’s party. You know John from work. ‘She’ (or ‘He’- meaning ‘new friend’) knows John’s sister so she goes to the party. You meet at the party, John’s dog pee’s on your foot, She thinks it’s hilarious and you both have a good laugh. So when you run into this person at say, a coffee house, you both have a history and a journey in which you can connect the dots on how you met and had this funny moment.
So the coffeehouse meeting is an extension of that journey and there is plenty to connect, relate and chat about. How you know John, how she knows John, the party, the dog, the pee stained shoes you are still wearing etc.
With Facebook, you bypass that journey, fail to establish any context and go straight to the funny moment. In a sense, a quasi-pornographic social experience. Which is fine, I guess, except when you meet that person face to face there aren’t the obvious small-talk anchors you can reach for. There is no John, no party and journey. Just ‘funny moment’. So you’re left reaching for something to establish a context to re-relate that funny moment you shared. But it doesn’t come easily and it’s plagued with doubt.
“Was it as funny as I think it was?” “Does he remember it?” “Maybe she thought I was another one of her ‘friends’ and made that comment to me by accident?” “Do I bring it up right away or do I ease into with, “So… Facebook much?”. Or does that make it worse?
I get this vision of being dropped in this all-white THX-1138 type room where you can’t really tell where the ceiling ends and the floor begins and you are standing face to face with this person you think you might know. It’s stark, exposing and there is nowhere to hide. No buffers. Just you, them and that shared funny comment. Chills.
I’m sure these things will work themselves out over time. But the journey to figuring out which way is up is one wild ride of social-relational upheaval.
Go here for the first part of this post if you missed it.