Why We "Friend" FrenemiesS

Here's an interesting situation: a woman reconnects with an old college frenemy and now feels there's weirdness between them. We'd say "why re-friend them in the first place?" — except that we've all been there.

The question itself — which I don't intend to get into here, but which you should by all means read — is about how to address the lingering bad-feeling, which the others seem bent on ignoring. But here's the part that caught my eye:

Four years ago, I moved back to my home state and city. At some point, I heard that Tracy and her now-husband, "Alex" (also a good friend of mine in college), were living here, too. I had no interest in re-establishing actual contact. But one night I was looking up people on Facebook, came across Alex's name, and sent him a friend request. Fifteen years later, it seemed like a safe and neutral way to satisfy my curiosity. Both he and Tracy acted overjoyed to hear from their "long lost college pal" and insisted we have dinner with them that night.

It's all there: "safe," "neutral," and the capper, "curiosity." It's fine until they interpret this as an overture and take thing to the next level: a face-to-face get-together. Because here's a problem: while to some of us, "friending" is essentially meaningless, nothing but a comprehensive directory or a good last resort to track people down, to others it's, well, friending. Implying, in short, that the other person wants a real relationship. And on the face of it, this isn't ridiculous.

Some of the breakdown, inevitably, seems to be generational: the notion of these bloodless, nominal relationships is apparently unthinkable for certain people who see the medium instead as a means to foster long-overdue reunions and virtual relationships. As one of my acquaintances said, "If I see an older relative of mine has under 20 friends, I'm immediately wary: this may be a more intense online relationship than I'm prepared for."

To return to the original question, I think you see the whole situation writ large. One person wants to establish contact in order to hate-stalk. The other assumes she wants to rekindle an old friendship. The real question becomes, is this a new dynamic — or just the usual, age-old social tensions and resentments and ambivalence, down in black and white?

Facebook Friends Or Real Ones? [XX]

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