Thursday, February 7, 2013

Should You Friend an Old Acquaintance on Facebook?

A few months ago, I received a Facebook friend request from someone I worked with 30 years ago. We weren't friends per se; we were work colleagues who hung out a few times together. I hadn't talked to him in decades.

I learned earlier this week that he has died. And I'm left with questions.

When I received the Facebook friend request from Frank, I deliberated. If I haven't talked to a former work colleague in 30 years, what was the point of connecting now, I wondered? Was he simply trying to grow his Facebook friend total? And what if he's one of those extremely chatty Facebook people who fill up their friends' news feeds with endless minutiae? I know that you can hide posts from people, but still.

And yet, I was intrigued. Frank's Facebook page said he was living in Cuenca, Ecuador. How did he wind up there, I wondered? Why was he there?

I couldn't decide what to do at that moment, so I took no action. I would decide later, I thought. Later has turned into "too late," as it often does.

I feel a twinge of guilt. Did Frank feel rejected by my inaction? More than that, however, I feel regret. What might have happened had I accepted his friend request? I might have learned something from him, he might have learned something from me. We might have connected in a deeper, more meaningful way than we did 30 years ago. People can change a lot in 30 years.

On the other hand, none of that might have happened. I'll never know, because I took no action. I can take comfort, however, in the words of a mutual colleague from 30 years, who sent me this message after I asked him about Frank's death:

"Frank had been living all over the past 10 or so years – in California, in Mexico, in Arizona, and as of a few months ago, in this beautiful small city in Ecuador. Apparently he was very happy there. So he took his leave in a fine state of mind." 

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A question for you: How do you respond to Facebook friend requests from people you didn't know all that well and haven't seen in years? Do you have a story to share about your acceptance, or rejection, of that friend request?

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11 comments:

  1. Well, I'm a bit of an attention seeker, so I usually accept all requests. :-) Funnily enough, I don't get very many...

    I'm a firm believe in fate, destiny, kismet. The experience you gained from this was the exact one you were supposed to. Maybe Frank wasn't the one you were supposed to connect with, but possibly the person who comes after Frank?

    As they say in one of my favorite Rent tunes: Forget regret, or life is yours to miss. :-)

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    1. Very wise advice, Judi (as usual from you).

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  2. Interesting question. A couple years ago I received those horrible words:
    "You've got Cancer" and given a 40% survival odds. Better than the lottery and I beat it but still a bit alarming. I reached out to past people I have known all the way down to the third grade. No, I wasn't after some kind of last minute bonding. It was just a process to discover how I got to where I am, all of it, every single experience, each person I met along the way who touched me and even trying to discover why other's couldn't or didn't. With six months of "Chemo" I had nothing better to do and wasn't capable of anything else. It was an interesting experience, sort of like living your life twice. Some people I attempted to find I missed. It was no big deal, I just went on to the next thinking I didn't have time to dwell on those I missed. I wouldn't worry about it.

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    1. Wow! Thank you so much for your story. I can't imagine how awful it must have been for you, but it sounds like you handled it beautifully. Thanks again for your comment. It means a lot to me.

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  3. I used to think that Facebook was my personal space. A place that would be reserved for close friends and family. But, I found out a lot about my "close" friends and family. They shared political views that I found unsavory. On Twitter I follow people and am followed by people who believe strongly in what I believe in, on Facebook, not so much. Now, I accept just about any friend request to balance it out.

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    1. I like that strategy, Bill. I should try it. I suspect I am 'overthinking' this Facebook thing.

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  4. I think your friend sought you out (and I have no way of really knowing this) because he knew he was dying. I too, have had people who I've lost touch with reach out to me like that and some of them were going through some "change" in their lives that caused them to seek me out. A break up of a marriage, an illness or something that causes them to think about me again. I almost died a few years ago and in the aftermath found myself looking up people I hadn't seen in years. Now, if nothing happened to jog someone's memory of you and you grew apart, well that's life isn't it?

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    1. Thanks Bekkie for your wise perspective! Jim

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  5. I think you are putting to much into it. I got rid of Facebook as quickly as I joined it. I fiund it for people who want to invest a little and believe they really connected. A true friend can surprise you but deep down you knew the truth. I like the response believe its fate to happen the way it did.
    If it made you think then you got a lot out of it. A great post as always - which us what I always knew you could do.

    Tim

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    1. Thanks Tim, I always love your comments. Jim

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  6. Advanced strategy: accept all friend requests, entertain a brief trial period, if it doesn't work out...unfriend.

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