The era of social media has brought about some interesting changes to ordinary life. We live in a time when it is common to form acquaintances, which in time may even grow into friendships, with complete strangers on the Internet. (Although, I must step back and acknowledge the fact that most friendships begin with two strangers meeting.) Chances are you shared an interest with that person, whether that be politics or sports or music or faith. Maybe someone retweeted him into your timeline or a website algorithm suggested that you might like to follow her.
But all of this is a rambling preamble (preramble?) to what, or who, I wanted to talk about: Karen. (We’ll call her Karen for the purpose of this post.) Sometime about ten years ago my wife had the opportunity to play at the House of Blues on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. As you can imagine, she was excited at the possibility of someone from the music business being in the audience and (more realistically) at the chance to expand her fan base. The guy she was opening for was a blander version of Dave Matthews (if you can believe that’s possible), but he was a hustler and had built up a sizable following in a town full of hundreds of people trying to do the exact same thing. Karen was one of his fans. She was a middle-aged woman, probably in her fifties, and you could tell she loved live music. After my wife finished her set, she came to our merch table and bought a CD. She raved about my wife’s music and was one of those people who treat you like they’ve known you your whole life when they first meet you. She signed up for my wife’s mailing list, we said good bye and then parted ways.
And then, she followed my wife on Facebook. She started to comment on family pictures. She wished our children happy birthday. She posted generic aphorisms when my wife wrote about something that had upset her. In short, it felt like she was trying to become a part of our family. My wife has considered blocking her, but truthfully she’s never crossed a line into being inappropriate. I don’t know whether she’s a lonely person or if she has issues with recognizing normal social boundaries. And to be honest, unless you make your account private, this is what we all sign up for with social media. To paraphrase Harry Truman: If you can’t stand the heat, delete your account.”