People who know me will be surprised to know that I’m actually on Facebook. After all, I had spent years fiercely resisting persistent calls by friends to sign up.
“Will you please get onto it?” Saffy once said. “My God, even our cleaning lady is on it! How embarrassing is that?”
“What is it with you and technology?” Amanda piped up. “It took you years to get a handphone! And, now that I think about it, it was also just about the same period of time it took you to get an e-mail address!”
Of course, my point was that I didn’t like the fact that people would have so many ways of getting in touch with me.
“What, you think you’re Osama bin Ladin, is it?” Sharyn demanded.
Eventually, I succumbed and opened an account. To my surprise, I found I rather enjoyed the novelty of being in touch with so many friends around the world.
But, lately, I’ve been troubled. Not so much by how much time I’m on the site, but by the lurkers.
You know the ones. They practically beg you to be their Facebook friend.
“Ay, friend me, lah!” said Richard when I bumped into him on Orchard Road. “I sent you a request months ago and still nothing!”
“But I already have 50 friends,” I pointed out, somewhat naively as it turns out.
“I have 1,056!” he said which, of course, made me immediately question how anyone can have 1,056 friends.
Richard continued to hound me by e-mail and because we move around in the same media circles, we’d bump into each other a fair bit and he’d whine that I was ignoring him.
So, finally, one evening, during a commercial break on ‘American Idol’, I accepted his Facebook request. Then, I clicked on his profile, curious to see what sort of Facebook social life someone with 1,056 friends has.
And there was nothing. Just his profile picture, some basic information about where he was born, where he worked, and the sites he was a fan of. There were no posts by him, and the last time someone posted something on his wall was two years ago from someone called Marine Boy 23: “Hey man, how are you?” Richard ever replied.
“Seriously, what is the point of being Facebook friends with someone who doesn’t do anything?” I complained to Amanda who peered at the screen.
“Oh my God, you’ve just accepted a lurker!”
“What’s a lurker?”
“Not a lurker, a Lurker! With a capital L!”
“What the hell is that?”
“Someone who just accumulates friends, doesn’t post anything but just lurks around to see what everyone else is doing. He knows all about what you’re up to, who you’re partying with, what you’re doing, but he’ll never tell you anything about himself! They’re awful, those people!” Amanda said firmly. “Never be friends with them. Why did you accept him in the first place?”
I was shocked. “But how was I supposed to know he was a Lurker?”
At this point, attracted by the sounds of our excited conversation, Saffy emerged from her bedroom. “What’s going on? What am I missing?” she immediately wanted to know.
“Jason accepted a Lurker on Facebook!” Amanda reported.
Saffy gasped. “Oh my God! Why?”
“How was I supposed to know he was a lurker, sorry, Lurker, until I’d accepted him as a friend?”
“The first tell tale sign is if he persistently wants you to accept him. That usually means all his Facebook friends have stopped talking to him, so he needs new victims!”
“Ooh, good point, Manda! And besides,” Saffy pointed out, “you wouldn’t accept a lift home from a stranger would you?”
“But I’ve known him for ten years! Plus, he’s got 1,056 friends! Well, 1,057 with me.”
“I’m pretty sure he had more to start off with,” Amanda said, “but gradually, they’ve un-friended him leaving 1,056 who are also all Lurkers!”
We went back to Richard’s page and randomly clicked on the profile of his friends and sure enough, most of them also posted very little on their wall.
I was flummoxed. Just when you thought you couldn’t be surprised any more.
“And if he’s like that on Facebook,” Saffy went on, “goodness knows what he’s like in real life. I’m willing to bet he’s single, lives at home and has never had a steady girlfriend.”
As Amanda later pointed out, just when you thought Saffy couldn’t come up with another politically incorrect jibe, she surprised you with a doozy.
Meanwhile, I’ve un-friended Richard. With 1,056 other friends to Lurk through, I figure he won’t notice I’m missing.