mirrorshard: (Heart's Desire)
[personal profile] mirrorshard
Navigating social graphs is hard, in several senses.

It's mechanically hard, especially for those of us who don't get to get out to parties much, and because both Facebook and Twitter actively discourage private communication between people who don't already list each other - on Twitter, you can't direct-message someone unless they follow you, and on Facebook, your direct messages get sorted into a disused filing cabinet in a dark cellar.

But more interestingly, it's conceptually hard. It's easy to think "that friend of my friend(s) looks like an awesome human" but less easy to go from that to "they should be my friend too". In the first place, I don't know how they are friends, whether they have something close that they don't want to share, or whether she's an acquaintance (or an ex) who thinks she's a closer friend than she really is. There's no coded mechanism for us to recommend friends, beyond the list of mutual friends we all see, and there's a definite social disincentive to use that as a recommendation - even if it weren't a patently silly thing to do, and a trivial violation of Geek Social Fallacy #whatever.

There's also a definite feeling that it's wrong to want more friends - it feels like being dissatisfied with what I have, and looking for upgrades, rather than an attempt to increase the flow of awesome across my eyeballs, and - with luck - theirs too.

It's certainly possible to ask for an introduction, but I'm not completely certain that anyone has done that since 1896 - they've certainly never asked me for an introduction to another friend, and if they did I'd probably assume it was for romantic purposes. For that matter, approaching someone and saying "please tell your friend that I'm awesome" is difficult enough, even if you have the kind of relationship where you know perfectly well they think you're awesome.

Of course, like everything else, it's very gendered. Women and female-presenting people often say "not looking for friends, I have enough friends" (and whilst I've heard that from men & male-ish people, it's not nearly as common) and that's a really, really good way to protect themselves from the kind of Nice Guy who treat social interactions as some sort of commando raid through the barbed-wire-and-explosions battlefield of the dreaded Friend Zone, into the enemy camp. As a result of the existence of these douches, all us male-ish or -presenting people are Schrödinger's Nice Guy, and it's very difficult to go "hello, would you like to be friends" without worrying about ruining someone's day. (Standard disclaimer: it's far worse for the female-ish half of this interaction. I'm not currently interested in the effect at the end, just the mechanism by which Not Doing It happens.)

(This post brought to you by noticing some points of congruence on Facebook and overthinking things.)
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