Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Testosterone and the internet

Don't get me wrong, some of my best friends are men. But what is it about the large world of the internet that causes men to hit on women they don't know? Or is it something I don't experience because I don't go to bars, and the internet is just a new manifestation of it?

I mean, other sites besides facebook, it has been worse. From improper suggestions of the most obscene sort to offers of marriage if I will help raise their children, the offers are numerous and show signs of being a sort of mass mailing. Even on a dating site, some friends and I noted that we received the same "personal" letter from a man. And considering that I am in my late forties, and make no pretense about being a larger body size than is fashionable in our society, I can only wonder what it is like for the young and slender!

What brings this on is my latest encounter with the male ego, on facebook.

The facebook encounter was at least a real person, but still ! Picture this; man on facebook with no picture on his profile sends a friend request . I google the listed name and come up with someone in Hawaii, but no one living near me. Grant you, the man shows as having friends in common with me, but when I say to him, I don't believe we've ever met, he sends me, in a message, the names of 5 friends we have in common and the city, Denver, which I have listed as my location, tersely, as phrases, with no other information. That information was all easily available to him from facebook, not from real life.

I check in with my roommate, get a description, and we conclude that I have indeed never met him. I message him back and tell him that I don't know him and he replies irately at being asked to provide proof of who he is, mentions places I've never been as proof that we have met, and tells me to have a nice life, withdrawing the request to "friend" me.

I've definitely not met him, but now have concluded that he has me confused with a certain woman I know of, so I write back to him and tell him that. So that he won't snub the poor woman the next time he goes to these places he's mentioned that I don't frequent. Her name is similar to mine, and we are both short, round, and dark haired…

So why my discomfort at all this? Never mind that I will probably meet the poor bloke at some party in future… I guess it was the inference of entitlement that went with his request. Facebook is a site where one's name is in clear, not a user name. Where one connects to real life friends. I'm enjoying this immensely still, in my third week of membership. I have reconnected with friends from long ago, current friends, and both former and present co-workers. But I have no reason to connect as a friend to someone that I am not acquainted with, even if said person knows a number of my friends. No one is entitled to have me friend them simply because they ask, and I'm not in the habit of adding people that I don't know. Perhaps it was the arrogant assumption that I would be glad to claim another friend? I don't know, but for some reason, it really caused me to stop and think about my online connections.

It's interesting to me, because what I mostly have gotten from women who accost me online are requests for information, and information fairly easy to get by using a search engine like google. They also have a sense of entitlement, and are irate when I suggest that the search engine will give them the answers they seek without wasting large amounts of my time… I get the same attitude that the man gave me about telling me who he was.

In the first of Eric Flint's Grantville novels he comments on the difference between Americans and peasants from the 1600s as having in part to do with that sense of entitlement (and the rest to do with hygiene and regular feeding, one intuits). The feeling that we are as good as other people is a good thing, to my mind, but the lack of acknowledgement that someone that we are not acquainted with doesn't want to drop everything and help us with our personal concerns is a definite failing…

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