A total failure on Facebook

After three years on Facebook and only a handful of friends, this guy admits he just doesn't understand social networking.

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Here from the relative safety of the printed word, I would like to announce that I am a failure at Facebook. I've had a Facebook account for three years now, and I have a grand total of four – count 'em – four friends. That's an average of just over one new friend a year. You have to be either incredibly discerning or incredibly unpopular to fail so magnificently at social networking.

I first visited Facebook three years ago not because I was ahead of the curve, but because I worked in the same office as the guy who founded the site. I was working in a Harvard department, and he was an intern there.

Truth be told, I always thought he was a little too smug for a 19-year-old kid. In retrospect, though, it appears that I was a little too smug for someone who was not about to become an Internet millionaire, and he was doing just fine on the smugness scale.

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I created an account, but then let it lie dormant until this year when my girlfriend joined. She convinced me to revive my old account, and, for about 48 hours, I loved Facebook. I soon had added all four of my friends. I looked up people from high school. I searched for dirt on people in my department. I put up pictures, wrote on people's walls, and even sent people free gifts.

There was even some romance when I officially entered into a relationship with my girlfriend. Here's how the wooing worked: First, I sent her a friend request, and then she added me as her boyfriend. Facebook then asked me if accepted her request. I did, and we were suddenly boyfriend and girlfriend.

Wow, is that how it's done these days? As a typical commitment-phobe guy, I have to admit I was a little nervous about clicking "confirm" on her boyfriend request.

This would, of course, have been a beautiful moment that we would treasure forever, except that I accidentally dumped her five minutes later because I didn't know what I was doing.

Fortunately, after playing the field for a few minutes, I figured things out and began dating her again. Our relationship is much the stronger because of it.

Unfortunately, though, my interest in Facebook soon waned. While I'm only 36, Facebook makes me feel old. I fear that I don't get social networking. For example, I have this apparently odd habit of accepting friend requests only from people who are, like, friends – you know, people I have met before and whose company I enjoy.

As you are no doubt thinking, such a notion is almost Victorian in its quaintness. I might as well write letters to people, too.

This, of course, is why I have only four friends. And when you have so few friends, there are other problems. By accepting my next friend request, in some ways I will be designating that person as my fifth closest friend online. And that's just a little too much pressure to put on a friendship. So far, no one else has quite made the cut.

It seems especially odd when I get a friend request from someone I don't know. Why do people I have never heard of send me friend requests? Cass, Dave, Ryan, and Beth, I'm deeply sorry. I've never met you before, but thanks for the friend requests. Rest assured that they are still on my entry page, mainly because until recently I was so dumb that I thought you would find out if I rejected you.

I knew there was an "ignore" button, but it seemed a harsh way to treat a stranger. All this time, I have instead been manually ignoring these friend requests. Manual ignoring is something I have always excelled at, and I am reluctant to hand over the controls of my ignoring to a computer. I'm old-fashioned that way.

In some ways, I'm just not an open enough person to be on Facebook. The status line where you tell everyone what you are doing right now terrifies me.

First of all, you don't need to know what I am doing right now. And I especially don't like that my status will be instantly broadcast to all my friends. OK, there are only four of them, but you get the point.

And even if I did want to broadcast my status, you always have to put something witty there so you seem interesting. Look around and it appears that everyone has a snappy line. "Joe Lavin is at work," or "Joe Lavin is writing a snarky article about Facebook" just won't cut it.

To be accurate, next time I think I'll just put up, "Joe Lavin is not accepting friend requests at this time."

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