Sunday, June 26, 2011

Facebook Dithers*

Dear George,

I’ve been friends with Melodie Petrocelli for close to a year. It began when she invited me to join her social network on Facebook. I’d never heard of Melodie before and still don’t know how she found me, though we do have a mutual friend in June M. I said o.k., and then I heard from Melodie on Facebook every day for ten straight months, sometimes two or more times a day. In fact, she’s been a more frequent communicator to me than my wife, my sister, and all of my other Facebook friends put together. Melodie’s usually excited about something happening in the local music world. She also writes about chocolate, peonies, and her cats. I’ve never commented about one of her posts nor responded that I “liked” them, but I have read each one faithfully. Then one day, for reasons that are hard to pinpoint, I decided to pare down my Facebook links and I “unfriended” Melodie. Just like that. Even though she was my most reliable message-sender, I didn’t miss her for very long. In fact, in a couple of days, I forgot about her altogether. That was about a five weeks ago. Then last week I got a new e-mail request from Melodie to become Facebook friends once again. I don’t know if she was hurt because I had unfriended her or whether my name had simply cropped up again in some kind of automatic surfing operation. I did notice that Melodie currently has 3,812 Facebook friends. That made me uncertain if I’d get any personal attention from her. I put her invitation on hold. I hope I’m not making her feel unwanted.

Even though I check it daily, I don’t really have the hang of Facebook. I don’t have that many Facebook friends -- about a tenth of the numbers that my son and daughter-in-law have. Plus mine is such a motley group. I’m Facebook friends with numerous family members and several real life friends, but also with casual work acquaintances, associates from thirty years ago or more, and some people I barely know at all. Yesterday I made a detailed list of all my actual real-life friends I could think of from age 13 to the present. Less than five percent of my past and present friends on that list are in my Facebook group. On the other hand, nearly half of my Facebook friends didn’t show up on my list of real friends at all. Thus if I post a message on Facebook, it’s addressed to a mysterious group that’s such a mix that it’s hard to know who will get it or what I might say.

My other problem with Facebook is that I rarely hear from most of the people that I’m closest to. My sister and my sister-in-law would be good examples. With some notable exceptions, it seems generally true that the better I know someone and the closer I feel to them, the more likely that I never hear from them on Facebook. At first I found this puzzling. Then I decided that it’s because (a) I’m probably connected to non-techy and/or introverted people; and (b) my distant ties on Facebook are persons who recruit huge numbers of acquaintances and send out large volumes of messages.

One thing that’s happened over time is that I’ve added links to various organizations out there in the world from whom I regularly get interesting inputs. The best example is my hometown newspaper, the Marinette-Menominee Eagle-Herald, which posts a headline news story every day and provides a link to their front page and photo galleries. I also get stuff from the Green Bay Packers, the Cincinnati Zoo, our local art museums, NPR, the Cincinnati Enquirer, Antioch College, the Daily Show, the Bengals, Sociological Images, the NY Times, David Sedaris, the Huffington Post, and several other sources. It’s a little unsettling, but I’m forced to conclude that many of my best friends are corporations.

Last weekend Katja and I went to a concert with our friend June. At one point June called us over and said, “Oh, I want you so much to meet my good friend, Melodie Petrocelli.” Katja said, “How nice. My husband has been Facebook friends with you for a long time.” Melodie and I looked blankly at one another, neither of us showing any hint of recognition. It was sort of awkward. I worried that she might say something about my unfriending her, but she didn’t even seem aware of my disappearance. Despite a year’s worth of Facebook messages (admittedly all one-way from Melodie), we didn’t have anything else to say. Instead Melodie turned to Katja and said, “I hope you’re my Facebook friend too.” Katja said, “Oh no, I don’t do the computer.” Melodie just said “Oh”, then moved on to find somebody more in the mainstream.



*Pseudonyms used in this story.

G-Mail Comments

-Phyllis SS (7-15): Dave, I think you are the Jane Austin (commenting on society and people) of Cincinnati. I am left wondering what Melodie looked like? Phyllis

-Gayle C (6-26): David. U r so right about face book. I am just a vey private person. I rather respond via e mail. But face book is great for getting messages out for work and of course for keeping in touch w everyone in the entire world. :). My goal in the. Near future is to frequent face book much more than I do now

Much love to you all

:) G

-Donna D (6-26): funny. is that last paragraph made up? donna

-DCL to Donna (6-26): Nope, it’s entirely true (except “last weekend” refers to when I initially wrote the story). You, of course, were one of the close friends or family members who I rarely hear from on Facebook.


  1. And then there are the folks who have one facebook account for their real friends and one for the complete strangers they only know through facebook--- and perhaps a third for business purposes....

    I recently found your blog when I was doing a google search on the McDonald boys. I was starting up a new blog about the McDonald boys ( on which I intend to post local history research I'm doing related to Menominee history. I really liked the old Menominee postcards you put up recently.

    I have another blog--- well, lots of other blogs--- and when one of them, the Lina Lamont Fan Club, got an award that I'm supposed to pass on, I thought of your blog as one of the award-worthy.( Congratulations, and beware of the curse....

  2. Thanks a lot, Lina. I enjoyed your blogs a lot, and it's great to hear from somebody in Menominee County. Best, Dave L.