Quiz: Some people you knew back in your hometown send you friend requests on Facebook. You don't really like them. Do you A) accept requests, B) deny requests, C) have an existential crisis?
C! C! C! Because you have been made unstable, by the internet. Also because then you can seek out advice from equally unstable Salon advice columnist Cary Tennis! So, friend these people or not? Or to put it another way:
I have what appears to be a simple problem: A childhood friend found me on Facebook and wants to be my Friend, and I am faced with a monumental decision.
By George, that does sound like a simple problem.
This "friend" was never a good friend of mine anyway, but was friends with my friends. All these "friends" I no longer consider to be friends. They are all lovely, good people, but they are also small-minded and rather boring ... like most people in my hometown. I left for a reason, and I'm not going back. When I visit, they'll try to hunt me down and hang out. All very fine, but I can't stand being around them or even thinking of them. All they seem to represent is a fear, a fear of a life I could have chosen had I not wanted to flee it. A life of boredom, a life of satisfaction with whatever you've been handed. These people live within a mile or two of where they grew up, are active volunteers (good people, right? salt of the earth) at the schools we went to. They've never gone far and they don't seem to want to. It scares and infuriates me. Deep down I think it gets to some problem of mine that I'm sort of curious about.
We've deduced this problem of yours: you're crazy. What's the mental illness where somebody is convinced the entire world is a movie about them? That one.
But the problem is, if I don't Friend this guy, that's just mean. I've never turned down a request. But the other option is worse. If I do Friend him, it will open up the floodgates of mediocrity. It will signal to the rest of them to come after me, to inspect my life, to comment on and judge it, to reduce me to a "Seinfeld" character (everything in life can be reduced thusly by them). I don't live a crazy life at all! I just happened to have moved on and eventually landed in San Francisco, where I'm very happy to be. I just don't want their snarky comments. I don't want to know that people can lead such sad lives.
Elitist. Elitist and crazy.