It started at the Ivy League level. So my high school friend at Harvard asked me to be his friend. Naturally I said yes. (How can a Harvard friend lead you wrong?) And before I knew it, I had 300+ Temple classmates who were ‘facebook friends,’ and hundreds more from high school. No problem. We all shared (relatively) the same taste for poking, posting updates and posing for scandalous pictures. Facebook was privy to fond college memories, triumphs and extreme failures. It helped me get my homework done. Learn about jobs. Interview men. It made my world inexorably smaller and easier to navigate. That was college.
Then I graduated. All of a sudden, the high school kids I had taught for more than 3 years wanted to be my friend. Was it a good idea to cross the line from teacher to friend? Probably not. Eh, I wasn’t their teacher any more. So what if the kids saw pictures of my family reunions, posts from my ex and updates about the cold I had that morning. But then I got a job. And all of a sudden I realized my boss was on fb. And my boss’s boss. And my boss’s boss’s boss. They call it “networking.” Not so different from LinkedIn? Right? In college we called it “networking,” but facebooking (yeah it’s a verb now) was more often than not “flirting,” or as I call it “match.com for the poor set.” Social networking on a whole new intimate level.
The craziness got worse. I started getting invites from the kids I babysat on the mainline. (Do their parents even know they’re on the internet? Is it their generation’s MySpace?)My very conservative aunts and uncles. People from my church. They say adults older than 35 are using fb almost more than the kids who’ve stopped looking at dirty sites and are busy stalking their crushes. Adults (yes I know I’m an adult, but I hardly feel like one) on fb scare me. It’s like in the book The Secret Garden, when the two little kids have to finally share their garden with the uncle. You know they have to do it, but you’re secretly rooting for the kids to keep it for themselves.
So should I be making up different fb profiles? A way to separate the faces I present to the public. A UPenn TA I knew created two profiles: one for her students, one for her private life. I don’t have anything shocking on my profile (I think). But who knows how I may be offending my colleagues, my pastor, my relatives or the very little kids that look up to me. Can I be politically-correct little-miss-goody-two-shoes in one profile? A hellion on the second? It’s a tough bar to balance. Some of the sorority girls I know edit their profiles so I can’t see pictures of them drunk, or grinding with strangers in Old City. Smart? Maybe.
And I know everyone I contact feels the same way I often do. Exposed and a little vulnerable. Eh, rest assured. Your secrets are safe with me. And 5 million other people on the internet.