Losing Friends

I don’t love Facebook, even though I’ve used it, abjectly, to promote my last book.

Beyond the obvious embarrassment of self-exposure, the most anxiety-producing feature of the Facebook model is the business of friending (apologies to Webster’s Third). Why friend someone you don’t know? Why friend someone you know but don’t consider a friend? Why―and this is the issue tormenting me today―friend a colleague you know only slightly? With a few exceptions, I do not include colleagues and students in my Facebook world. I try to keep a firewall between “Facebook me” and “school me,” especially when posting about my cancer and the politics of that illness.

Yesterday, over lunch, I learned that Jerry Watts, a colleague of ours, had died earlier in the week. I had missed the notice since I rarely check our overburdened university email. The shock stayed with me all day. I’m sure my seminar was very strange. Jerry Watts, a man I barely knew but always liked (not Facebook like), in part because he had supported me in some contentious departmental debates a few years ago, was dead. You can read about him…on Facebook. He was a distinguished scholar of African American political thought.

I doubt seriously Jerry noticed I had not clicked the accept button, when I received his friend request a while ago. If he had, I doubt it would have affected his sunny, generous nature.

Today, I belatedly friended Jerry Watts and “liked” the posts about him. I will miss his lovely presence. We all will.