July 06, 2008

As I Get Older, Some Online "Friending" Gets Creepier

I don't know if my transition from being childless to being a father of two has contributed to my being more aware of my age, but as I get requests to be "friends" on a variety of social networks, from Facebook to Plurk, Identi.ca, Twitter and any other social site of the month, I'm finding myself a bit uneasy when it comes to "friending" young contacts.

On top of the occasional annoyance that youth anywhere from 10 to 15 years younger than me are engaging in the same networks I am, there's just something that has me hesitating every time I get an invitation from a 14 year old or a 20 year old who wants to follow my updates or be connected.

At my old age of 31, were I to be a "real world" friend of any 20 year old girl, people should be asking questions. If I were palling around with some 14 year-old boy geek, they would be asking other questions. Yet, the occasional eyebrow-raising invite hits my e-mail box, and makes me wonder if somebody just might get the wrong idea.

What if I were to take the next step and move beyond a simple friend acceptance on Facebook or Twitter and try to find out more about this person?

For example, take Mashable's Alana Taylor, age 20, or Read Write Web's Corvida Raven, age 20. I'm friends with both on Facebook, and I've had many conversations with Corvida on Google Talk, traded e-mail, and phone calls.

Alana I've never talked to, but going to her personal blog had me feeling like I was getting a bit too much information.

Similarly, a 14-year-old Josh Jenkins asked to follow my updates on Plurk, and I reciprocated. What do I have in common with Josh? And how I do I explain any interest I would have in his updates, or those from 18 year old Ivan B, 19 year old Eric Kerr and 19 year old Jared Eberle?

Thinking about it makes my head hurt a little bit. Alana's Facebook profile says she graduated from high school in 2006, eleven years after I did, and at a point where I'd been married for three years. Josh Jenkins wasn't even born until my junior year in high school. Assuming teenage dalliances, he could be my kid, for crying out loud.

Maybe I'm overthinking it a bit. I know online "friending" and "following" is growing like gangbusters for people in social networks everywhere across age groups. And I know that to many, maybe my age of 31 seems young. But isn't there something a bit creepy about all this?