“We’ve identified you as the person with the fewest friends on Facebook,” the email said. “But don’t worry, help is on the way.”
It was high school all over again, and I was being cyber-bullied by a social networking site for not being one of the cool kids.
I typed in my user name and password, fully intending to delete my dreaded profile. An instant message box blocked my progress.
“You don’t have to do that,” the words said.
I clicked on the “X” in the corner, but the application wouldn’t close.
“Who are you?” I demanded.
“I’m your fairy friend-finder.”
I clung to my pride. “I have enough friends.”
“The median number of friends on this site is 198.” The screen zoomed into the Friends section of my profile. “You have two.”
“I used to have three,” I typed.
“Until your Mom unsubscribed.”
“Some of us value quality over quantity.” I stormed into the other room and the phone rang.
“I can make you popular,” the voice purred.
I lied and said I didn’t care, but a part of me couldn’t put down the receiver.
My fairy friend-finder taught me how to find people I went to preschool with and encouraged me to befriend them. She scoured my email contact list and found 123 potential friends in under a minute. She kept me company with the online search feature, and helped me to remember the first and last names of every boy I’d ever kissed.
“But making friends is just the first step,” she told me. “You have to be able to keep them.”
And so I learned how to update my status – to share the insignificant details of my life in fun and catchy ways. I enthusiastically commented on pictures of my friends’ pets. I trolled YouTube to find the best videos for my webpage – my Wall – wowing my online friends with oodles of useful, clever content.
Friends of friends witnessed my witty repartee and word spread. New friend requests poured in day and night. My mom rejoined and begged me to take her back.
I became an adjunct professor at an online university, giving cyber seminars on virtual friendship. When I broke the world’s record for having the most friends ever, Oprah had a special show and sent me a friend request live from her cell phone. HBO made a miniseries, memorializing my journey.
And now, sitting in front of my computer and tending to the 1,200 new messages since this morning, I try to remember what the outside world looks like. I have distant memories of trees and clouds and loneliness, but when I try to visualize the past more clearly, my recollections fade until I finally hit a Wall. And while I’m there, I write on it.