the “friend list”: one of life’s ambiguities

17 12 2003

I’ve noticed various discussions around LJ about the meaning of one’s “friend” list or, more to the purpose, the “friend of” list. What does it mean when someone adds your journal as a “friend”? Probably different things to different people. I know some folks say it indicates no more than a literary interest. They like the writing in a particular journal, want to read more from the writer, and so they add the journal. Or so they say. But I just can’t see it that way. Not completely.

LJ has a community aspect to it. We don’t just read. We interact through comments. Most journalers post at least some information about their personal lives, and readers respond with encouragement, congratulations, sympathy, or whatever is indicated by the circumstances. Even poetry or creative writing reveals a writer’s soul to some extent. Anyone who is passionate about writing pours a little of himself into his words.

This brings me to the “friend” issue. Adding a friend indicates interest in that person’s writing. Because of the writer’s identification with his writing, an interest in the writer is also implied. Posting comments in the journal increases the connection with the writer. Relationships are built. Community forms.

Obviously not all journal relationships are created equal. Some of the people on my friend list are real-life, flesh-and-blood friends of mine. Some I know only by their screen name and what I’ve learned about them through their journals. But some of the people I’ve met on LJ have become actual friends, even though I’ve never met them in person. That’s what happens when you get to know people and begin to care about what’s happening in their lives.

Hypothetical situation number one: I suddenly find my journal on the friend list of someone I know nothing about. This person never comments on my journal, and then after a while, I notice they’ve removed my name. I might wonder what first drew their interest and why it waned. But I wouldn’t be troubled by it too much, because no relationship was formed.

Hypothetical situation number two: Someone adds me as a friend, shows interest in my journal, posts comments, exchanges ideas, expresses joy in my triumphs and concern for my sorrows, then delists me. Even worse, the person comes out and says he removed it because my writing is not interesting to him. I find it impossible not to take that personally. Given the content of my journal and how much of me I expose there, to say it is not interesting is to say I am not interesting. Intentional or not, it’s a cold, verbal slap.

So, what to do about this? After all, this is a cyber world. No one is obligated to anyone really. No covenants have been signed. No promises made. I can’t expect my writing (or my life either, for that matter) to interest everyone, and I have no right to complain if someone adds then deletes me from their list. But I do think there’s a solution that eliminates the feeling of rejection. It’s quite simple really.

If you come across a journal that appeals to you at first glance, read it for a while without adding it to your list. If it begins to disappoint, go your merry way. The writer will never know you even came by. It’s easy enough to navigate the journal world unannounced and unnoticed. Don’t add a “friend” until you’re sure you want to actually be a friend. Then, if you eventually change your mind, leave the poor soul on your list to avoid hurting his feelings. Common courtesy dictates as much.

I’ve given this whole topic considerable thought. Maybe too much thought? Perhaps there are more important things that should be occupying my limited brain space. But then again, what is more important? Journalers aren’t just words. They’re people.

That’s my opinion anyway.

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff. Anyone got a good joke?

EZ


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2 responses

18 12 2003
allenb

Right said Sistah!

You stated this so much better than I could have. Thank you for putting it down in words.

OK, Horse walks into a bar, bartender says: “Hey, why the long face?”
Rimshot!

18 12 2003
jeannedamoff

Re: Right said Sistah!

You’re welcome, Allen. And thank you for the compliment and the joke. ;o)

♥ EZ

Your comments are a gift. Please know I read each one with gratitude.

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