I have a gigantic personal network. If I needed to talk about a problem or wanted to chat with someone who shared one of my hobbies or just needed a pal to go clubbing with -- if, god forbid, I ever found myself "clubbing" -- I could call on any one of 11,327 people.
And that's just today. By tomorrow I'll probably be near the 12,000 mark.
I am connected to these 11,327 individuals in a "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" sort of way. My connection is through a mere 12 people who have accepted invitations to be my Friends, capital-F Friends. I never realized that making friends was such a formal process until I joined Friendster.com and came to understand that friends don't take friends for granted. Friends invite people to be Friends, and invitees accept or reject.
It's very cut-throat and competitive. This is where spirits are broken and icons are made.
For instance, I have about three invitations to people pending, and I'm not sure if any of them will accept. There are dozens more people I could invite, but I'm scared of rejection, or worse, of them realizing that I am such a geek that I do things like join online friend networks.
I'm not sure what it says about my friendships with these people, both the pending invitees and the as-yet-uninvited -- such as I understood the concept of friendship before I joined Friendster.com. I have some Friends who became my Friends only after I pestered them and invited them two or three times, and I don't know what to think of my relationships with them now, either.
After all, don't true friends do anything for you, without cajoling? For instance, I am such a fine friend that when I learned about Friendster.com a few weeks ago from my Friend Will, he didn't even have a chance to send me an invitation before I signed myself up and invited him. (Should I take his initial silence as an insult?)
I haven't conducted a formal investigation, but I am pretty sure that a disproportionate number of my Friends are gay men. This may be because one of my Friends is Brian, a trendy young thing who has, at this writing, 24 Friends, many of them gay men just as hot and scene-savvy as Brian himself, and nearly all of them with Friends lists numbering in the double and triple digits. The aforementioned Will joked that just by making Brian my Friend I would acquire a sexually transmitted disease, due to how much he gets around Friendster-wise, but so far there's been no virtual itching or burning. All's well in my online social world -- almost.
My lesbian Friend Chris has been lamenting that we don't have enough lesbians in our networks, so I put pressure to join on notorious lesbians like my Friends Lyn and Kim and even a straight female Friend who has an admitted hatred of penises. But my efforts were in vain. Lyn and Kim have the same Friends that I have, the same few lesbians linked to each other and the same gay men linked to thousands of other gay men. The penis-phobic straight lady isn't helping much, either.
I found myself a little giddy recently when I read in Entertainment Weekly that Friendster.com is "In," because I am never "In." I am always at least "Five Minutes Ago," if not "Out" -- when I'm even that lucky. Most of the time I'm nowhere near the chart.
With this nugget I convinced a new Friend, David, to join in and so far I am his only Friend. But he's a gay man, and it's just a matter of time before all of his gay male friends join up and start being all hip and making me look tragically uncool, tragically suburban, tragically lesbian in the pre-lesbian-chic sense of the word.
It seems like most of the women I'm linked to through my personal network are what we used to call "fag hags" before we came to know them as real women with real feelings and an uncanny sense of style. There's nothing wrong with this; we lesbians love our straight sisters who give our gay brothers an outlet for their pressing need to talk about hair styles and make-up and shoes and fashion designers whose names I can't pronounce.
But we want actual lesbian Friends. We want lots of them -- unabashed, unrestrained ladies who are fearless when it comes to flaunting all that's queer in our world. Like Lyn, who cutely describes herself in an alphabetical list of adjectives, with G standing for gay. For those who are curious and do not find themselves lucky enough to be in Lyn's personal network, X stands for x-rayed, although x-rated might well apply too, depending on her mood.
And on that note, apparently one of the thinly veiled purposes for Friendster.com's existence is its potential -- and frequent use -- as a dating mechanism for the single (and single-minded) people who post their profiles and photos there. For many members, it's just a big pick-up tool.
This makes it harder for me to convince other people to join up, especially if they're already hitched up or just plain not inclined toward the online dating scene. And aren't all lesbians -- or at least 95 percent of us -- already hitched up or just plain not inclined toward the online dating scene?
Too bad. Friendster.com is "In," at least until the next issue of Entertainment Weekly comes out, and I am riding that wave of glory with all of the members of my flamingly gay personal network. The risk of airing the fact of my Friendster.com membership -- and, let's call it what it is, my new addiction -- is that all the people out there who are truly my friends (little-f, no copyrights or dot-coms involved) and who have not been invited into my personal network will start hounding me about why I haven't sent them invitations yet.
If they want in, they should speak up. My personal network has already jumped to 11,335 during the time it's taken me to record all of these lofty reflections about love, friendships, and my dire need, just this once, to be trendy.
Kristina Campbell welcomes new Friends. E-mail her at email@example.com to request an invitation. If you're a true friend, you'll remember to read her biweekly column, "Alphabet Soup," so you have a conversation starter when you run into her at virtual parties.