J.J. Jenkins is a journalism freshman and the Mustang Daily freshman columnist.

Switching schools is difficult. I would know — I’ve done it two consecutive years, moving to Colorado for my senior year in high school and now coming to Cal Poly as a freshman in search of those “California Gurls” Katy Perry told me are the best.
But one thing remains the same no matter where I am: those “friends” I only have online.
Take for instance those few Cal Poly classmates who friended you on Facebook before coming to college. The people you had never met in your life and were not in your major who clicked the “Add as Friend” button on your profile for some reason.
Well, if you still have not officially met those “friends” but awkwardly walk by them going to class or have stood behind them in a campus dining line, you are not alone.
At last count, there are about five people who pop up on my News Feed with increasing frequency, but I’ve never had the spine to go up to them and break the ice.
Only knowing someone from their Facebook profile and pictures is just weird. It’s an unspoken truth — guys and girls alike stalk their Facebook friends’ pages, even if they have never met.
For some reason, knowing what someone wore to the Senior Prom and what they did on a vacation to Mexico before formally meeting stifles all possible conversation. Oddly enough, the more you know about a person, the less there is to talk about.
We all certainly want to meet these people and get to know them through more than a status update but as the first quarter comes to an end, it becomes easier to look the other way when your Facebook friend walks by.
I’ve certainly been guilty of conspicuously avoiding eye contact with Facebook-only friends while winding through the never-ending line at Sandwich Factory. As I filled out my order, one of my “friends” bounced in behind me. Great, I thought, now I have to keep my eyes averted for the next 30 minutes.
I tried to bury myself in my phone. Facebook and Twitter can only consume so much time and no one engaged me in a text conversation. So we kept winding through the metal bars, and just missing the eye contact that could have spelt doom.
Mercifully the sandwich maker called me to the front — I was relieved from my battle to avoid interaction at all costs.
It seems the only thing more awkward than randomly introducing yourself in person to your online-only friends as the guy who posts his stupid blog all over Facebook, would be unfriending them — now that makes for a tense handshake when you find out, for instance, your roommate is dating their roommate.
But it’s easy enough to use this space in the Mustang Daily to criticize the current culture of Internet extravagance — nothing could be more cliché — so, I’m here to propose solutions.
First, if you are going to friend someone you do not know on Facebook, at least add a little note or send them a message to accompany the request. Coming into college we were all looking for future friendships and adding a message like, “This is an awkward friend request from someone who saw that you too like The Black Keys in your Introduce Yourself post on the Cal Poly page,” can start a conversation and make that first in-person meeting less terrifying.
Second, do your best not to creep … but still creep a bit. A good rule of thumb is to look only at the person’s “Profile Pictures” album. This way you have a good idea of what they look like and an idea about their personality.
Do they use sepia to accent their picture? Probably artsy. Are they playing sports? Probably a jock reliving their glory days in high school — unless they are running, then they’re just under the misinformed impression that people care about cross country.
Of course you can’t judge someone completely by the profile picture they put up sophomore year (I certainly regret that faux-hawk), but it gives you a glimpse of their personality without also knowing the names of their siblings and dog.
Third, if the ship has already sailed on the previously mentioned guidelines then you might have to carry around this issue of the newspaper at all times. If you come across one of your online-only friends, conspicuously pull out this column so they see what you are reading. This move will establish that it is OK for the other person to introduce themselves as awkwardly as they can.
A good introduction would cleverly weave in the last Facebook status your friend put up. If all else fails, just post a link to this article on your page as a signal for your online-only friends to introduce themselves.
I know I’ll do that, but probably just to let my grandma know I’ve made it onto the “Internets.”

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3 Comments

  1. Just delete them! It’s really not that big of a deal. It’s FACEBOOK it’s not like you told them that you never want to be their friend in RL or something. Geez. You’re putting way too much importance on a stupid FB profile. Most people are super understanding if you just are honest and say you were getting overwhelmed and needed to cut down your list to close friends and family. If they aren’t understanding, well then they’re an asshole anyways.

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