I recently found myself in an awkward situation that left me in a sort of inward-kerfuffle with myself without any real clear answers. This situation also forced me to realize that what I grew up with and what has been common, societal norms in the category of pleasantries and courtesy and modesty for a really long time (pre-digital age so, around 6,000 years among civilized societies?) is no longer the case and what's more, they're changing faster than I think I can keep up with. This is going to be way longer than a 140 tweet or a snippet status update so I hope you'll read the whole thing without getting bored and clicking away.
I'll explain the situation and maybe someone reading can offer some insight on it. For all I know, there are other women out there who have been in the same situation and found themselves wondering what to do as well? Here's what happened:
An aquaintance of my husband sent me a friend request on FB so I accepted. Technically, he's a singer in a band that my hubby and I both actually love to pieces, so I felt okay accepting the request. After I did that, I did what people deny doing and I creeped his profile. You know how it goes, you look at status updates, pictures, friends & stuff like that. I confess, I creep profiles - and I don't care who knows it. I'm pretty sure everyone else does too. In any case, I noticed his wife also had a FB account and almost without thinking I moused over her name to send a friend request - then I stopped. This was where the kerfuffle started.
I thought, on the one hand I feel like I should send her a friend request since I'm friends with her husband. Then I thought, no I'm not friends with her husband I don't even know her husband! Then I thought about how much I hate the way social networking has obliterated the true definition of friend and essentially turned it into a meaningless thing. Then I thought, well I will send her a request with a note saying my hubby and I are friends with her hubby and I thought it would be nice for her and I to be friends too. Then I thought, she's going to get this and think "who is this freakbag and why is she sending me this request?" I mean, those who know me well already know I'm sorta silly but I don't want strangers to think I'm a freakbag. Who does?? I was at a total loss with what to do, so I did nothing and I've been stewing over it ever since. This has been about 2 months now and I still don't know what to do - or if I should do nothing at all.
Now I realize for most people this is a complete non-issue. However, for Christian men and women who are interacting with men and women online, it's not a non-issue but I don't want to give the impression that it's a HUGE issue, because it's not (but it is an issue and should be for adult Christian men and women, married and single, that want to keep themselves accountable, out of trouble and not give anyone the wrong idea about anything, right?). In other words, I desire to keep it real without making it a big deal. The problem is, I don't have any clarity on what that should look like.
Online, I am "friends" with several married men. Essentially what that means is that I know them from chat or forums or blogs and when we crossed paths on FB it was just sort of automatic that we'd be friends there too. Among those married men, if I actually interact with them, and if I know their wives are on FB too, I am friends with many of them as well. It makes ME feel better knowing that I'm not just friends with their husbands, while ignoring them (or giving the impression I don't care to know them, or interact with them).
On the flip side to this (sort of?) there are single & married women that are friends with my hubby. They know he's a married man (you can't be his FB friend without knowing it, we goof off there all the time) but a handful of them have never sent me a friend request and almost never interact with me on his wall/timeline. I'll be honest, I find that uncomfortable - and something about it seems bizarre. And when I thought about that, I wondered how many conversations I've had with married men online who's wives I'm not friends with - and if they find it uncomfortable and bizarre as well??
Kev and I were talking about this a few weeks ago and I translated it all for him (the way I see it anyway) into a face-to-face situation like neighbors who lived on the same street. Imagine if a married man were walking down the sidewalk with his wife, and some woman came up and struck up a conversation with him. She liked his new jacket, laughed at what he said, and talked about her recent shopping trip to find a new jacket herself. Then the wife speaks up and says "yes, I like it too", then the husband thanks the wife and the other woman just stares at her without saying a word - like she's invisible - then goes back to her conversation with the husband. In a situation like that it seems pretty bizarre and terribly awkward, but that's exactly what goes on online, and everyone seems to think it's just normal and/or okay. My inner sense of "funky and strange" says it's not okay, that there's something very blatant and obvious being disregarded. From where I sit, I most certainly do not want to be a blatant and obvious disregarder of someone's wife!
So, is it just me, or have you ever had these same thoughts and/or do you struggle in any way with all of this? If yes, I'd love to hear from you. If no, I'd love to hear from you too so you can tell me why you're okay with it all. I think whatever insight anyone has to share on this might be more helpful than you realize, since the digital age isn't going anywhere anytime soon (unless the Mayans were right!) and we all should have a better handle on how we interact (or, do not interact) online.