Many of you have heard the words “social networking” and have been bombarded with the accolades showered on networking websites as LinkedIn.com and Facebook.com.  And yes, I am sure that they are all that they seem to be and more, that all of you have doubled or even tripled your business because you set up a profile on a website and have begun connecting. 

But friends, are you aware of the hidden dangers?  Are you aware that you may come face to face with… yourself? 

On these social networking sites you provide certain information so that people may find you.  Whether it be your name, your hometown, your occupation, the idea is that people who are both trying to find you and people who don’t know they are trying to find you can do so.

But let’s take Facebook for instance.  A lot of people use Facebook for networking but they also use it for reconnecting with friends, keeping up with family members, and maintaining relationships they wouldn’t otherwise have the time to maintain.  But it also can force you to face your inner demons, to own up to who you were when you were young.

(The following is fabrication and in no way is intended to refer to or describe any person, living or dead.) 

My name is, um, Philip Cohen and I graduated from, um,  Grenada Hills High School in 1993.  I wonder who else of my fellow graduates are on Facebook and what they are up to.  So I take a look and I see familiar faces and not so familiar faces… and I see faces that remind me of times even earlier than high school.  Say, elementary school?  That time when we as children didn’t know better?  Calling someone names was part of the school-yard code and there was always that one kid who was picked last for everything… and he has just sent me a Facebook Friend Request.    PANIC!!

What does he want?  Do you think he remembers what I called him way back when or that he was always picked last?   Does he harbor any ill-feelings towards me?  Ok, so if I don’t respond to his friend request, then what?  Will he be upset, maybe check out my friends list and send them emails that I was a bully when I was 5?  Or do I respond with a “Hey man, how’s it going?  Man it has been a long time, huh, what have you been up to?” And act like I don’t remember the past?  What was I thinking when I was in 2nd grade?

Ok, so I responded to his friend request and sent him a note that it was good to hear from him and what has he been up to… and he hasn’t responded.  I wrote that note to him 5 minutes ago and he hasn’t responded!?  I accepted his friend request and he won’t write back and now I have given him access to all of my friends, some psycho now has all of my pictures and friends and favorite books and groups I am in… WHAT’S HE DOING?  What’s his angle?  What was I thinking back then?  Why didn’t I know better?  What kind of a person was I?  Was I that bad that this guy won’t even write back?

So, this guy doesn’t want to write back huh?  Well, let’s just see how he likes it… you, my friend, are no longer my friend.  There was a reason why you were picked last for kickball and now I don’t want you to be my friend anymore.

But that isn’t fair… I am now sinking to his level.  I am better than that.  I am going to act as if nothing happened, the past is what it was and it is in the past.  I have moved on.  I have grown.  Hey man, can’t we just shake hands and get along?  Let’s end this feud once and for all.  There is no reason for people to be fighting for 25 years.  Bygones, ok?

Still no response????

It is at this point that I am cursing Facebook, the internet, the Highlander Marching Band, the Chess Club, and the 5th Grade Luau committee… It is your fault, all of you.  You created this, not me.  I throw my computer against the wall, I tear up my old yearbooks, and I refuse to acknowledge that I grew up anywhere near here. 

My name is Bob and I am from a little town you have never heard of called Jefferson, Ohio, nice to meet you.

And then I catch my breath, sign back on to Facebook because, hey, my next client could be just around the web site…

Ahhh, the fun of social networking.

So, my goal for this week is to discuss with my daughter how important it is to be nice to everyone.  You never know what they might grow up to be and what ill-feelings they might harbor.  She might not know Facebook when she grows up, but there will be some other way that some upset kid can psychologically torture her the way Facebook has psychologically tortured me.  Then I am going to crawl into a corner in the fetal position and suck my thumb for awhile.

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