By Stanley Bing
April 1, 2008

It happened again this morning. “Boris Nofziger has invited you to connect on LinkedIn,” said my inbox. Hm, I thought. Boris Nofziger. Who the frig is Boris Nofziger. Perhaps Boris Nofziger is a person who will one day do me some good. Why shouldn’t he be part of the vast community of business associates and former colleagues who are in my LinkedIn network? 

I Googled Boris Nofziger. Nothing of note emerged. So there he sits now, in my LinkedIn inbox, festering.

The thing is? I’m not LinkedIn. Nor am I likely to be. I came close, though.  

At first, as you may recall, I put in my name with a completely bogus resume into the database, just to see what would happen. I believe I put in that I had graduated from the University of Bratislava and was a bicycle salesman. Within five minutes, a huge screen of fellow grads from that remote institution had invited me to join their circle.

Many wrote me in a middle-European language that was unfamiliar to me. That scared me and I changed my info back to something approaching the real thing. Within moments, about a dozen names from my past lives announced themselves. Mike Navatsky, who led a radical group in my college days and was now a periodontist. Melanie Spatz, my co-star in several little theater productions back when.

I was suddenly swept with a powerful desire to be anonymous again and belong to no community that would have me as a member. Having skated close to the brink, I have come to realize two things: I am not in the psycho and demographic for whom the utilization of social networks for social purposes makes sense.

When I was a boy, there were always two parents who wanted to smoke pot with the kids. Some of them wore flowers in their hair, headbands and bell bottoms. We laughed at them. Today, when I occasionally find myself on MySpace or Facebook and see some pudgy boomer trying to look all Emo and cool, I get the same chucklicious shudder. Some things should be out for the old folks over 35. We don’t wear tee shirts that say “I’m With Stupid” anymore either, do we?

Then there are the networks reserved for grownups, the ones with serious business purposes, like LinkedIn, which does a really good job networking people. I have nothing against them. But the idea of using a social network for career purposes also leaves me feeling kind of squishy. Whenever you go to a cocktail party, there are always a couple of needy people who use the gathering to hand out business cards, massage potential contacts, make time.

To me, this violates the essentially hedonistic and frivolous nature of the cocktail party qua cocktail party, whose purpose is to fritter away time while getting pleasantly loaded. I once knew a guy who worked his friends’ kids’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs to drum up business. Squeezing career benefits out of a social network sort of feels like that to me. I’m sorry if I sound uncongenial in some way. But we don’t use forks to comb our hair, either.

I suppose this means I should erase myself. For some reason, that also seems hard, why that is I have no idea, but I guess it must be done. Now, lest I seem rude to you guys who have been kind enough to think of me, I’d like to issue an apology to all of you who have been languishing in limbo for the last months, your invitations collecting digital dust.

I’m sorry I never answered your invite, James and Ryan and Andrew and yet another James and Jayne and Cheray and Jesse and Bill and Clive and Bernie and Mark and David and Donna and Cheryl and Rob and Karen and Stephen and Peter and Jonathan. I remember all of you from one time or another and would be happy to hear from you at any point in the future, if and when you feel like having a drink or something. I’m sure you know where to find me.

Until then, sayonara. In just a few moments, I’ll be gone from your electronic neural community, never to return. Before I wink out forever like a black hole in the center of this self-sustaining mini-universe, I do have one question…

Boris Nofziger? Who the frig are you, anyhow? And is there anything you can do for me?

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