By Trudie Mitschang
Imagine a place where every disparate segment of your life collides. In this alternate universe, you can interact with people from your past, present and possibly even your future — all at the same time! Your ninth-grade nemesis is there. So is your first crush. Your high school prom date is chatting with the guy who dumped you for your (former) best friend. Your husband and your ex are chumming around, too, bonding over music trivia.
Suddenly, your old boss shows up and, frighteningly, so does your current boss, along with a whole posse of girlfriends - college roommates, bridesmaids and PTA pals. Your pastor drops in, oh, and just for good measure, some of your crazy relatives. These people have no common interests and no real desire to get to know each other. Their sole purpose for being there is the fact that they have (or had) some kind of relationship with you. The problem is, most of them know way too much about you (do you really want to introduce your Bible study friends to your drug buddies from "back in the day?"). Clearly, these people should not be mingling. But, it's too late. Even if you leave now, everyone will still be there when you get back. Watching. Waiting. Posting. Tagging.
Welcome to the increasingly weird world of social media relationships.
I recently got a Facebook friend request from someone whose name was only vaguely familiar. Her picture offered no clues, but since she knew me by my maiden name, I assumed she was legit. Turns out, she and I were classmates in seventh grade - a mere 39 years ago. She gushed that she was so excited to "find" me (Really? She looked?). She wanted to know what I'd been up to … since I was 13. Who remembers? And, why would you even want to? There's a reason nobody goes to junior high reunions.
Of course, now I'm in a friending free-for-all because accepting a request from one former acquaintance has opened me up to everyone else on her Facebook page - people who also think they remember me from somewhere. I've already had two more requests from people I can't place. Once upon a time, there were old friends, former friends and new friends. Today, they all get lumped into the category of "online friends," where the old become new, former become current, and nobody ever drops off the list. Still, no matter what Facebook says, even on my best days, I don't really have 356 people I can actually call "friends."
How do you handle the new rules of social media relationships? Is it rude to simply not respond to people who find you online? Tell us about your experiences.