Cathy Hamilton: Facebook brings social worry

I'm depressed and distraught because I don't have enough friends.

Oh, I'm doing fine in the flesh-and-blood buddy department. I have a gaggle of girlfriends from high school with whom I occasionally cavort. My coffee chums are cherished confidantes, and my tailgate group is a blast. Throw wonderful workmates, neighbors and sundry acquaintances into the mix and my cup should runneth over, shouldn't it?

Then, why do I have a measly 30 friends on Facebook?!

That's right. It's taken months to come out of the closet but here I am - an out-loud and proud, 52-year-old woman with a Facebook page. (Wow! I feel so unburdened. The truth really will set you free.)

Believe me, I didn't enter into this lightly. I engaged in intense soul-searching before I took the plunge. My KIDS were on Facebook, for crying out loud - trolling for parties, looking for love, posting incriminating photos of themselves for future bosses to see - whatever it is kids do on the wildly popular Web site.

What would they think of their mother "friending" them? Or, heaven forbid, "friending" their friends? (Yes, fellow dinosaurs, "friend" is now a verb as well as a noun. Sister Mary Agnes, my third-grade grammar teacher, is rolling over in her grave.)

And what made me think I had time to maintain a Facebook page? If my daughter was any indication, it would take hours each day to update my profile, post photos, scribble on friends' "walls," take movie quizzes, join groups and play brain games. Not to mention the "status update" feature where you're supposed to keep friends informed of what you're doing every minute of the day. ("Cathy is eating a sandwich." "Cathy is shopping for bras." "Cathy is updating her Facebook page because that's all Cathy does anymore.")

Hello?! I'm a grown-up. I have a life, you know?

Besides, I mused, isn't this just another sneaky way helicopter parents have found to hover over our kids, by infiltrating their online turf?

I decided it just wasn't right.

Then, an in-the-know, in-the-flesh friend from New York e-mailed one day, out of the blue: "Why aren't you on Facebook? Get with the program!"

Days later, my professor friend admitted she's on Facebook, too. That it was a great way to communicate with her students.

What can I say? I can't bear to be square.

Soon, I was online, writing and rewriting my profile with vital statistics and interests - favorite music, TV shows, books, quotes, activities. It was a fun, "all about me" exercise, and I loved every minute of self-indulgence.

Then, it was time to "friend" somebody, and I instantly regressed to the seventh grade:

"Omigod. Should I 'friend' her? What if she says no? And if I 'friend' her, should I 'friend' her friend that I sort of know, but not as well as my original friend? And what about him? Should I 'friend' him? What if he doesn't like me? Should I ask my other friend to ask him if he'll say 'yes' before I 'friend' him?"

It was torture, I tell you. Worse than cold-calling dates to Sadie Hawkins dances, back in the day.

I "friended" my kids (they had to say "yes"; I'm still paying their car insurance), and the few adults I could find who were a sure bet. Browsing their profiles, it was like high school hell revisited:

"She's got 171 friends?! Why can't I be that popular? And look at him - 82 friends in only two months! He's so cute and funny. I'll bet he gets 'friended' every night."

I painstakingly assembled what I felt was a decent, provisional number of "friends" and promptly forgot all about Facebook, until a few weeks ago.

Now, it seems a new wave of my peers are "friending" each other right and left, and I have to face the facts: As a social networker, I'm a total loser.

And so, dear readers, help me save face, won't you? "Friend" me; I promise to "friend" you back.

After all, one can never have too many friends. Especially in the high-profile world of Facebook where it's all about the face value of your page.

Cathy Hamilton is a 52-year-old empty nester, wife, mother and author, who blogs every day at BoomerGirl.com.

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