October 24, 2005

What is a Friend(ster)?

After years of deliberately not joining online communities, a few months ago I caved and joined Friendster. Previously, I regularly received those email invites to join and reassure somebody of our friendship, but I just wasn't having it. I just saw it as too much work to keep a personal page updated. Yes, I can be that lazy.

After finally giving in to joining, I decided it would be fine because since "everybody" was on it, I could at least maintain some sort of contact with old friends from high school, those who have moved away, as well as just people who I am connected with but just don't get a chance to see that often.

When I signed up, I was sure that everyone on my Friendster list would be people I personally knew. Or rather, those whose first names I knew and could pull out of a lineup if I needed to. But I learned with Friendster, this isn't really the case. It is possible to have a Friendster whose personality you couldn't describe or face you couldn't identify even if your life depended on it.

I learned that there is a difference between a friend and a friendster.

Here are some of the post-joining dilemnas that I currently face.

1. The Friendster rejection.
Often I have received buddy requests from people who I don't know. People who maybe I should know, but for some reason I don't. Or maybe they know me, but I don't know them. Whatever the case may be, once you receive one such request, you have to decide either to reject them or simply ignore them. Both of which seem to be rather mean responses to these purported friends of yours. And being mean is just, well... mean.

2. Insanity
Whenever you have a "community" where people are connected by keyboards and monitors instead of face to face contact, you are sure to find a higher than normal percentage of oddballs who want to be your friend.

Here is a message I actually received on Friendster:

Date: Wednesday, August 03, 2005 15:14:00
Subject: Join the Ryan Revolution!
Message: Hey. My name is Ryan. I notice yours is also. This
is not, as you may be thinking, a coincidence.
How, you may ask, is it not?

Well, I put your name into the search engine, for a

Heres the deal. Last year I was insufferably bored.
So I amassed an army of Ryans well, 60 or so -
off the Friendster database. It was fun to watch
them all join me, and to look at their profiles, and
go: Oh, he seems interesting, for somebody who
shares my name. But then they wanted to know
where I was going with it. And I didnt know. So I
skulked off and pretended I never did anything.

But now, I know!

And alas, I return to Friendster to find that half,
maybe more, of my militia have not signed in to
their account for at least six months. The truth is,
in the absence of firm leadership, my namesakes
have deserted me. So, it has come to this I need
new blood.

I call on you, as a new recruit, to join the growing
ranks of Ryan, and participate in a creative project.
Every month Ill come up with a new task, and as a
collective group we Ryans will show all those other
names just how damn inventive we can be. Ill try to
keep this going for a year, and itd be cool if you
could help me do it.

Interested? Then join us. Add me as a friend, and
Ill return the favour.


I seriously considered changing my name after reading this. Maybe something like Horace? or Alpern?

3. Creativity
I have no creativity to make a cool looking profile. It makes me feel inadequate as a human being. People have professional looking pictures where they wear nice clothing and stare off to the distance. Or look at the camera seductively. I go with webcam pics that make me look like an alien. Life doesn't get much harder than that!

4. Friendster mongerers
I know I have been asked to become Friendsters with people only because they need to win the "I have the most friends" award. When getting such invites, I wonder to myself if I should be a participant in their game, or this obsession that the inviter has. Its kind of like getting with a player fulling knowing you are getting played. I mean, who wants to be one of 500 other friendsters on a list? I mean, you are nothing but a conquest to them. But yet, you go along with it anyway. And you are getting played online for goodness sakes, without any of the in person benefits.

5. The harm of cancellation

Every now and then, I think about cancelling my Friendster membership. But I don't go along with it simply because now that I have made contact with some people, it would be a shame to cut those ties. Even though they are online ties. But prior to joining Friendster, connections were lost but now that some have been regained, it seems a shame to lose them once again. Or what if by once being a friendster and then not being somebody's friendster later, the individual thinks that you don't want to be their friend anymore even though you are just sick of Friendster? Quitting is rough...

My conclusion is this: Friendster is a cult. Where else can you meet up with folks from the looney bin who obsess over the perception of themselves by others, fear rejection, who go all out with their membership, and keep you locked in the fold?

Don't join, because once you're in, you are stuck.

And you become a friendster. You feel a strange tingling and then it's done.

Save yourself. It's too late for me...I'm one of them now.

And don't worry. We can still be friends, but not friendsters. Being friends is cooler, anyway.

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