The art of “friending” is a new ability today’s generation has acquired due to the invention of the ubiquitously used social networking site called Facebook. When I first set up my Facebook account, it was standard practice to accept a friend request promptly when the request was received. Today, however, with over 500 Facebook friends, I have become more selective and strategic with how I accept a friend request.
As I sit lazily on my Mac Book Pro, which I received from my parents as a congrats-on-getting-into-college preset, I refresh my Facebook page, anticipating new photos or statuses to show up on my news feed. Nothing however, is more thrilling, than that little red flag that pops up on the top left corner of my Facebook page, indicating that I have a friend request. When this tiny red square appears, embellished with a skinny white number one that looks as if it were etched into the box, a wave of excitement engulfs me. That bright red flag, the color of the ink my professor used to intimidatingly mark off points on my sweat-stain-inducing Macroeconomics test, is filled with mystery and leaves me in wonder. I know that it is a friend request, as the notification is attached to a small icon with a silhouette of two heads on it, instead of the icon with the word bubbles signifying a message in my inbox, or the icon with the globe signifying a notification pertaining to either a wall-post, photo-comment, or event-invite. But this is all I know. Who the person is who sent the friend request, is a complete secret to me. It is as much a mystery to me as the unsolved mystery of who was responsible for the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, or who actually stole the cookie from the cookie jar.
When that red square materializes, I automatically begin to wonder what person wanted to add me as a friend. Is it a boy or a girl? Is it someone my age? Younger? Older? Is it someone who I am friends with, or an acquaintance? Maybe it’s someone who I dislike, or maybe it’s even a stranger.
But this pop-up notification is more than just a friend request. It is a stealthy affirmation that people know who I am. It is a daily ego-boost that fills me with a slight feeling of popularity. A friend request means that someone knows who I am and wants to keep track of me. They want to Facebook stalk me, and maybe even communicate with me. A Facebook friend is not always a REAL friend. It is a pursuer, and an un-creepy internet lurker that will occasionally look at my Facebook page to see what I do with my life. When that friend request springs up, I experience the feeling of fame and significance.
After all of this excitement and anticipation that lasts for about an 8th of a second, I click on the red flag to uncover the Facebook-friending culprit. This is when the strategy of my generation comes into play. Despite what the Facebook officers had intended, the process of clicking “confirm” or “not now” is a much more complicated process to the Facebook generation, and it is a process that everyone my age and around my age has attained instinctively. It is no longer proper Facebook etiquette to accept a friend request as soon as it is received. This is only done if it is a close friend in REAL life, a family member, or if that person is sitting right next to you, discussing the fact that he or she is friending you on Facebook. Instead, the new process is to keep a friend request pending.
The pending process is one that is unnecessary, yet practiced by most adolescents. Those who are left pending should be in these categories: a weird person, a hot person, a popular person, and a younger person. Each category has its unspoken reasons as to why that person should pend.
When a weird person friends me, I keep them pending because I want them to think that I don’t have time for them. It is a social structure thing. A semi-bitch move that every girl I know takes part in. This weird person must wait, as it is a privilege to be friends with me on Facebook. The pending process for the weird person is an electronic snub of the nose; an I’m-too-good-to-accept-your-friend-request-at-this-moment type of move.
A hot person must be left pending because he or she mustn’t think that all I do is sit around on Facebook. If an attractive male specimen with a tall stature and a glass-cut jaw line shoots me a friend request, I don’t want him to think that I care that he friended me, even though in reality my teenage hormones are cartwheeling, and I’m experiencing a mental lady-boner. I can’t come off too eager, and I must seem nonchalant. This is why the hot guy must be kept pending for at least a few days, when I can then accept and thoroughly stalk.
A popular person must be left pending for a few days for similar reasons as the weird person. I don’t want the popular person to think that they are popular. I want the popular person to think that I am more popular than he or she is. I want him or her to sweat it out and ask themself if Leah Bitsky is really going to accept the request. An accepted friend request is also a slight ego-boost, and no one wants the popular person to get a bigger head than he or she already has. This way, when I accept the request a few days later, or even a week later, they will receive the notification and ideally think to themselves, “Wow, that Leah Bitsky must have such a busy, fun, and social life if it took that long for her to accept my request. She’s so cool!” Basically the ultimate goal is to make the popular person feel less popular, even though I am actually so flattered and excited that they even acknowledge my existence.
The younger person should be kept pending for censorship purposes. 14-year-old kids that I coached in volleyball over the summer are not old enough to look at pictures of red solo cups. They are too innocent to be exposed to the gifs posted on my Facebook timeline that typically involve jokes about skipping class or smoking weed. The younger person will either be denied as a friend, or kept pending for a few years, until they are old enough to learn about the true happenings of the college experience that go on when students aren’t cramming in the library, chasing their questionably prescribed Adderall pills with Red Bull.
These are the thoughts that go into the process of accepting a friend request, though many do not acknowledge them. Basically, when that mysterious little red flag pops up, filling me with exhilaration and a sense of high social prestige, I must decide right away if that person falls into any of the above categories to be left in Facebook Purgatory, as every day on Facebook is Judgment Day.