Last weekend I was at the early stages of a soon-to-be-larger party, hoping I wouldn’t be too noticeable as I crashed an in-house only pregame. It turned out that the residents of the house were perfectly friendly, however, and once I realized this I tentatively advanced towards the bar where two girls I didn’t know were adding a little too much vodka to not quite enough cranberry juice.
As I approached, I glanced at them and realized that I did know them. I knew quite a bit about them. No, we hadn’t been introduced before. Yes, we had mutual friends. But the ultimate source of my knowledge was Facebook.
Call me a “stalker” or a “creep,” but I prefer to be called an intelligence-gatherer. I like to know who people are, what they’re doing and what events are going on around me. Do I want to know what parties are happening this weekend? Yes. Do I want to monitor the relationship status of that one hottie in class with me? Obviously. Do I want to patrol the walls of my mutual friends to see if they make lunch plans without me? Damn right! Why wasn’t I invited to lunch too?!
As a result, I had long ago located those two girls on Facebook. I swear, I hadn’t stalked either of them that recently! But I knew a little bit more than just their first and last names — I had a pretty good idea of who they were friends with, who one of them had dated and what they both did last summer (in a non-horror movie kind of way).
Now, I realize that few people would choose to walk up to a supposed stranger and open with, “Hey, I’ve seen you on Facebook!” But we’ve all dealt with that climactic moment when you finally meet whom you had previously only encountered on Facebook. You might’ve seen that name on your friend’s wall or in a photo album, so you naturally clicked. Who’s asking my friend out to coffee? Who is this girl using emoticons all over my friend’s ex-boyfriend’s wall? Why is that guy I hate suddenly besties with my senior formal date? And suddenly there they are in the flesh.
So, when you’re actually introduced to them, you can do one of several things:
1) You play dumb. You meet him and you act like you’ve really never heard of him before, even if you’ve been prowling his profile daily. Here’s my tactic for when I know somebody already but don’t want him to think I’m a creep because I already know what his favorite bands are and who his girlfriend is: I stumble over his first name like it’s in a foreign language, just to throw him off track. “Miriam, have you met John?” “Oh, Juh-on? John. Nope! Nice to meet you!” Believe me, it works.
2) You play it casual. You meet someone who is quite obviously a mutual friend, and you’ve been wondering when you’ll finally meet her since your friends are clearly ditching you sometimes to hang out with her, ugh. After you’re introduced to said person, you namedrop a little bit with, “Oh, you’re friends with Jack and Jill! Yeah, they’re friends of mine.” Maybe you only really knew this because of Facebook, but if you namedrop convincingly, she’ll assume that you know what you know because you heard it from your mutual friends, not from her profile.
3) You tell it like it is. This is risky, and there are ways to be really creepy about it versus only a little weird. I wouldn’t suggest that you walk up to someone and immediately say, “Oh em gees, I loved your spring break album — the pictures of Hawaii are simply gorgeous! Ooh, but I’m sorry about, ya know, the relationship thing. Don’t worry, he’s a douche for breaking up with you two weeks before senior formal.”
No, no. Don’t betray the true extent of your knowledge. Even though a lot of us are on Facebook, purposefully stalking or simply being exposed to our newsfeeds, no need to put it all in the open. You have to be the judge of the situation you’re in, but I would like to briefly advocate for a “creepier” approach.
Back to the bar with the two girls making really strong drinks. My friend came over to introduce us all, and the ensuing conversation was wonderful. I’ve used fake names to preserve anonymity.
My friend: “Miriam, this is Jane. Jane, this is Miriam.”
Jane: “Are you Miriam…Ellora Marks?”
Me: “Why yes. Are you…Jane Stanford?”
It was a pleasant surprise, albeit alcohol-induced. But it’s kind of a great feeling when someone rattles off a middle and last name once you’ve declared your first. Let’s be honest, as much as we call it “creepy” and “weird,” it’s kind of a nice feeling to know that someone out there is interested in you. And it implies a certain amount of mutual Facebook creeping that I think we can afford to disclose.
Miriam encourages you to betray any knowledge of her that you’ve creepily gleaned from Facebook: firstname.lastname@example.org.