Ever since the movie When Harry Met Sally came out, I’ve pretty much believed that men and women can never really be “friends”. Not when one or both of them is not in a committed relationship. It’s just an unnatural state of being for both species, so why do we force it?

Facebook is a wonderful example of this. I’d prefer not to have a list of hundreds of so-called “Friends”. I know that most of the people on my list are acquaintances at best, and many of them, now that I use my Facebook account for promotional purposes, are just the product of friendly social encounters. I like them, I support them, I wish them well, but I know very little about them personally and I do not need to find out more.

Last night I had one of these friendly social encounters at a new venue I was performing at with my band. We are in a phase of doing a lot of legwork to show up at open mics, form new relationships, and scrounge up opportunities for ourselves to play for more audiences. I am in awe of the courage and talent that is showing up at these coffee shops, bistros, bars, and other locations in the community where I have never had a reason to “hang out”.

Lately I have enjoyed creating video highlights of each performer, posting them on YouTube, and sharing them on Facebook. What I’ve learned about promotion is that people love seeing themselves (especially musicians and performers!) and sharing these images with others. Video is such a great medium for musicians because it gives the next-best experience of live performance.

So in my steep learning curve on Facebook, I’ve found out that if I become Friends with the performers whose videos I’m posting, I can Tag them, and these videos will show up on their pages as well as mine. There are all sorts of fancy maneuvers you can do with Tagging, such as writing on an Event page, Tagging a person, and having that post show up on the person’s wall – linking the event and not only the person, but that person’s entire network.

Facebook’s a beautiful thing for “viral” communication among specific networks of people.

The problem that came up today was around the implicit access granted by “Friending” someone. I initiated a Friend Request to someone whose performance I had recorded and who actually helped by videotaping my band’s performance. I thought it would be a nice gesture of real-life (and Facebook) Friendship to post his video on his wall.

Within minutes of his accepting my Friend Request, I got a message from him that was essentially a continuation of the attempt at “flirtatious” conversation he started last night. I wasn’t responding to him last night, and I hoped he would get discouraged. Not so lucky was I! The Facebook message operated on the assumption that by Friending him, I’d granted him access to continue the conversation he had started the night before.

The reality, in terms of my intention, was that I just wanted to be Friends. I just wanted to be able to tag him in a video and share his music with the Facebook universe. Sometimes, a Friend is really just a Friend on Facebook.

I dreaded the choices I saw in front of me: (1) avoid him by not responding, (2), de-Friend him and never have to deal with interacting again, or (3) go through the step of finishing (ie, bringing to an end) our conversation by sending him a message (literally) telling him I already have a dance partner, thank you very much.

So after all of this, would I call him a “Friend” if this were not Facebook reality?

I considered de-Friending him, just so I wouldn’t have to deal with his silliness anymore. But then I stepped up, recognized my responsibility to teach people how to treat me, and I got clear. I asked myself who I wanted to be in this world, and how I wanted to treat myself. I had long held the default mode of avoidance (not responding) and passively holding onto my feelings of being treated wrongly without saying anything. I would then write off these responses as valid because I was spiritually “letting go”.

The truth is I didn’t have the courage or self-trust to state my own point of view and what I expected from other people. I simply moved like a leaf blowing in the wind, with apparent flexibility but no strength or balance when it came to these kinds of situations.

So I took one small step in the direction of a new habit. I responded. I did not react passively but I wrote a brief email clearly stating that I was not receptive to flirtatious advances, nor was I interested in carrying on this kind of conversation in the future. I didn’t try to be “nice” but I also didn’t attack him personally for being creepy.

This was a subtle way I had been holding on to a victim role in so many challenging relationship moments, and today I finally chose a different path for me. I crossed out of my own comfort zone and into The Place I Thought I Could Not Go.

Turns out, he responded to my message with some recognition of the awkwardness of acting silly, and it feels like we might end up just being Facebook Friends after all. Whew!

P.S. Here’s video of my performance last night, the scene of the above incident!

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