Saturday, July 20, 2013

creating a/broad, July 20, 2013

Friends I've Never Met
by Cameryn Moore

I think everyone here knows how I feel about Facebook: I love it. Yes, there are bits that occasionally shit the bed, and I’m still trying to figure out how best to store my content somewhere else in the event that the whole damn site goes commercial in the next year. But, you know, that’s pretty standard stuff. For the most part, I get along in it swimmingly, and as I prep for going to Edinburgh next week (EEEEP!), I’m particularly thankful for one aspect of Facebook:

It has enabled me to meet people who I don’t know yet.

Most people are annoyed by that sort of thing: they have to think about where they might know these supposedly random strangers from, or if they even know them at all. I used to be a little embarrassed to admit that I am very easy with my own friend requests. I am almost certainly the one who is annoying people.

But I’ve learned to not care. If you want to reject the request, go ahead. I always have my reasons for sending it, and they’re good reasons:

A good friend of mine mentioned someone, I sent them a friend request, they accepted and I promptly forgot all about them. Except...

I like the comments you’ve been putting on one of my friends’ walls; you seem like an intelligent/funny/sexy person, and I think I’d enjoy reading your updates.
You apparently like the comments I’ve been putting on one of my friends’ walls, and I think you might enjoy reading my stuff.
You popped up in the 'people you might know' section of the Facebook screen, and when I looked and saw that we already share 244 friends, I thought, well, I might not know them yet, but I will eventually, if current trends continue.
I liked something you wrote out in the real world (i.e. not Facebook), and poked around until I found your little Facebook-connect button. Or just typed your name up in the search field.
I’ve just put the call out in my own status update. “Hey! Does anyone know anyone in London/Nashville/Germany?” And then if my existing FB friends recommend that I talk with a particular person, I go for the intro right then, even if I’m not going to be in London for another year, or I’m not sure that I’m ever going to get to Germany. You never know!

That last one is exactly how I got lined up to do five UK cities after Edinburgh Fringe this year. Last Fall I had asked sex-worker acquaintances on Facebook for friend recommendations in the UK, especially Scotland. A good friend of mine mentioned someone, I sent them a friend request, they accepted and I promptly forgot all about them. Except then, after I put a call out for more people to help me out with post-Edinburgh planning, this person from Glasgow’s Sex Worker Open University popped up and said that they wanted to help. If I hadn’t just added him, seemingly randomly, months and months before he wouldn’t have seen my call for help, and I wouldn’t be playing in London this year. Hell, if I didn’t make friend requests on FB more than would be seemly in real life, I wouldn’t know anybody in the UK. But this one guy turned out to be in a particularly good position to help, and thus history will be made.

And lord knows I’ve flirted with people via FB and wound up meeting them in one way or another…

Yes, and that’s only one of a boatload of coincidences and collaborations and connections that have had real-life impact after taking shape on Facebook. I’ve helped people get homestay in at least three different cities, and myself have gotten phone-sex-friendly sublets and billets in a half-dozen via friends of friends, and sometimes friends of friends of friends. I’ve found recipes and local sources for props and best coffee houses, last-minute flyering opportunities, and more than a handful of gigs (both paid and unpaid). I’ve found potential venues and introduced friends to one another as potential collaborators. And lord knows I’ve flirted with people via FB and wound up meeting them in one way or another…

The point is, I’m not trying to jack up my number of friends online for ego reasons; I’m doing it to strengthen my network and lay some foundations for where I might land next. I’m looking for people who I’m specifically interested in, or who I think might be able to help me with something down the road, or who I think I might like to work with some day. I want to meet friends so I’m not lonely when I get to a new city, and potential collaborators so that I have a chance to get to know them now, instead of waiting until I actually land in their city, when it will be too late to do anything productive with them except start the planning process for next year.

This is me networking in the limited way that you can online. This is me networking in advance. It does feel weird sometimes, the first time that I actually meet someone in person who I’ve been reading intimate details about for months and months, but it works.

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