RHYS BOWEN: My friends all begin with A. That’s a slight exaggeration, but many of them do. Not because I have a fondness for Alexs and Annas but because when I first joined Facebook and Twitter I was told that the way to find friends was through other friends’ lists of friends. And those lists always started with the As.
So I’d click away merrily at all the Alans and Audreys and then run out of steam by the Cs. I have absolutely no friends called Zach or Zenobia.
And a tip for expectant parents: if you want your child to be popular call him Aaron and her Abby. They will never want for Facebook friends.
This got me thinking about the whole social media phenom and how strange it is. We get really close online to people we have never met and really don’t know. When I get a friend request I almost always accept it, unless the person is called “I Worship Satan”, Of course I’ve had to rapidly unfriend a few who seem to think that Facebook friendship actually means more than it is. One gentleman from Africa wanted to move into my house with me. Quick, where’s the unfriend button? Sometimes they’ll send a message that starts with “You are so beautiful and…” This convinces me that either they are shortsighted or looking for what I’m not offering. I point out that my profile says MARRIED and that the reason I am on Facebook is to keep in touch with my fellow writers, readers and industry professionals.
I usually follow back those who follow me on Twitter. Then I started reading their descriptions of themselves. Have you ever actually done that? Here are a few I’ve gleaned:
Murderess. Peacock. God’s Chosen One
Prisoner at the Eden Hotel
My Salon at Grand Hotel was a refuge for clever people
Leading authority on Verbal Abuse
Raging against the dying of the night
If you have a moment, read some. They are fascinating, and strange. And make you wonder if you really want them following you.
But the amazing thing about social media is that real connections are made. I love finding out what my real friends, like Hank and Deb, are doing on a daily basis. But I've also developed a true fondness for people I've never met in person. When I bought a leather purse in Morocco and when I got it home it smelled terrible, I posted this on Facebook. I got hundreds of suggestions about how to remove the smell—many of them really good and effective. Months later when I go around the country to speak someone will ask me, “What happened to the purse? Does it still smell?”
And when I broke my wrist I posted that on Facebook and was overwhelmed at the outpouring of sympathy, hints to make life easier and kind offers. Ten people even offered to type my manuscripts for me until I could work again. I was gobsmacked, as we say in England.
Now, of course, it has become an addiction. I can’t start the morning without seeing who has tweeted what and who has said what on Facebook. But I do wonder if the next generation will actually ever go out and make… uh… real friends in the flesh.
So how about you—social media-love it or hate it?