The Facebook profile picture I use when I am probably sitting online at home looking all ugly.

It’s Friday night, already past 10, and the line to get in is forming. Everybody has got their best face forward–carefully selected images. No ugly faces.

Everyone has their most put out there and their words carefully chosen. You can reel-in anything you conveyed before you send it out into the public: start to say it, stop, change your mind, backspace a little, and thrust it out there finally. It’s cool—no one heard you start out, fumble, and try all over again. Many chances to get the right message published—self-editing at its finest.

A real boon is that any adult can be a member of this club, but not everybody is admitted to every room. Every member has their own VIP suite with their name on the door in boldface. In fact, if you know (or, are just drifting by as a beautiful stranger) the boldfaced VIP and simply request a relationship, you may be able get on their guest list.

But, beware; you only get out of it what you put into it. If you just sit on your ass and don’t come up with your own witty remarks detailing what you do with yourself, then you might as well not even be there. You literally have no status.

Another option is piggybacking on others’ well-done conversation-starters. At least in that instance you are playing the game nicely with others. And running with scissors is not preferred. If you do, you may get bounced to never return to that VIP’s lounge. All with the click of a switch—happens that fast. Deleted.

All in a nightclub’s alcohol-scented, darkened rooms, right? Not even close—try your PC or even your Iphone. Where else could this nighttime haven and workday guilty pleasure be other than online at FACEBOOK (FB)?

Don’t act like you’re too good to be forced out of desperation to use such social networking tools. I, too, thought I wouldn’t see myself on such a stage. However, I began to see its virtues and ease. Of course, the peer pressure to join the digital lemmings was there, too.

I’ve heard before that maybe some of those old relationships’ doors should’ve probably remained closed, but I disagree. Finding out what some of your former cohorts are doing in the world and re-establishing those ties is a good thing, especially in these “disconnected times” of “transientness” and suburbs. Or, if nothing else, it will make my next class reunion better instead of the bane of my existence.

When I first began on FB, I admit that I felt too exposed to judgment. For example, I went to a high school where the student body was groomed to be a collection of jackasses. For example, the yearbook published a “Most Beautiful/Most Handsome” contest, complete with rankings—judged by some staff (!) and students. (The adults who sponsored that crap must have shit for brains.)

Having that hardwired instinct looming in the back of my head, I initially decided to only let those who I call “friend” now and others that are bona fide personalities from my past be my “FB friends.” And absolutely no strangers (nunca, never). I held tightly to that theory until one Friday not long ago.

Let me introduce my real-life friend from ninth grade and FB Best Friend Forever (BFF), Lynn Marx*. How is Lynn my FB BFF, but not my BFF in my everyday, real-time life? Well, because Lynn and I exchange witty banter and clever insults constantly on FB. It is great–always good for a chuckle or even a tearful roar. And, at times, the cyber pat on the back when needed to help move on from an impacting negative incident. However, I have not actually laid eyes on (except her FB carousel of profile pictures) or heard her voice since 1985.

Caution: Lynn (although a self-confessed, “used to be timid” user) is an “open-armed” FBer. That means she will let anybody and everybody on her FB guest list and the more the merrier (500+). Well, one Friday morning I got a “friend request” on my FB home page and the only “mutual friend” my courter had listed was (bingo!) Lynn.

Despite my solid “real-life friends only” credo, I weakened a bit and decided to shoot Lynn an email asking her to vouch for her buddy, “Tom Jones.” I mean, he looked respectable, an older man with sophisticated, charming looks. And he was dressed sharply with plenty of gleaming silver hair.  Lynn replied that she did not know him, but added that, “What is it going to hurt? He’s in Texas and you are in the middle of Georgia, for crissakes!”

Since I have a tendency to crumple under peer pressure (high school!) like a childhood “afterschool special” broadcast’s protagonist, I relented, and let Tom into my VIP lounge. I needed to chill and just go with it.

An hour or two later I checked my FB wall. Look! My new friend, Tom, had dropped by to welcome me into his cyber world with an odd, little message next to his silver-topped mug, “Thanks for connecting with me.” One side of me was like, “Well, that was proactive of him to come say, ‘hello,'” while the other side of me was thinking (with one eyebrow raised), “This seems phony and canned—go investigate immediately!” The cynical voice won that one and off I went to go peruse Tom’s page to get some information on him.

Tom’s page had very little on it—almost blank. But, he is listed as “married”—thank goodness, not on the prowl. Next, I saw the “info” tab and clicked on it. Instantly Tom’s work history was displayed. Tom started working in the advertising field in the ’70s. I guess that makes him close to 60 years old—even safer than being married: old. I surmised that Tom must be on FB to keep his “finger on the pulse” of what is “hot and now” with certain demographics, driven by career interests.

With that in mind, I posted on his wall asking if he had found me for this purpose. A few minutes later Tom posted on my wall commenting that about half of his guest list was composed of real acquaintances and that the other half was split between virtual people “reaching out” to him and vice versa. After that, I went and glanced at his guest list. I didn’t see any half-naked girls or pictures of phallic-shaped objects. I concluded, “Well enough.”

A couple of hours passed and I get another blind friendship request. This courter is an around 50-looking man who resembled a pudgy Mafioso type from New Jersey with a deeply-lined forehead and wearing average-guy glasses. His name was “Mark Bridges” and was listed as living in Los Angeles. Who was the common friend this time—Tom!? Too, I decided to scan Mark’s friend list—no obvious red flags. Continuing on the path of my new “FB friending” outlook, I held my breath, put my other foot in the water, and clicked on “accept”.

Straightaway, I skipped over to Mark’s room and there was Tom’s rubber-stamp and hallmark, “Thanks for connecting with me,” floating on Mark’s strangely clean page. I noticed that their new friendship had commenced right after Tom’s and mine had. (Huh?) But, to be fair, his “info” tab said he had his own PR firm in L.A. I mean, who doesn’t out there, but maybe he had work-related interests in this FB phenomenon, just like our mutual friend, Tom.

My curiosity over this suspicious affiliation moved me to post on Mark’s wall, “How did you find me?” I calculated that Mark would be unlikely to respond since it would inadvertently expose himself as the trolling FBer that he seemed to be. But, maybe he would fall for it.

Friday night arrived and I was already in my flannel pjs, face sans make-up, hair pinned up, and a cold beer in my hand. Heavenly! Looking for some stimulus, I decided to go hit Club FB. No one can see how I look while I chat in my VIP suite. Besides, I already have my “Klub Karen” profile picture up to represent me in how I should look while fronting on a Friday night.

Alas, I have a new wall post, from my newest FB friend, Mark! And it is terribly flattering and so…insightful. Mark showered me with compliments. For example, he wrote that he could clearly see that I was witty and sexy and that he adored my candor. He practically said that I shook him to his core, for crying out loud. Hey, I’ll take all that and a bag of chips. But, really, he claimed all that from eyeballing my Klub Karen headshot and a couple of barbs aimed at Lynn? I couldn’t just let it sit and I went over to Mark’s wall and wrote, “Are you for real?”

Bam! Like five seconds later Mark is back on my wall singing my praises and, oddly, plugging his “collage art” hobby. The flood gates of bragging burst open and he couldn’t stop posting on his career successes, like how he had “booked five Oprah shows”. While he continued to gush on himself with multiple posts, I went and clicked on his website—seems he had done nothing of note since 2006. (Hmmm.) And then I got to read some more about his art collages. I checked those out on his website, too, and they sucked. (It made me think, what if this were happening in a real club, wouldn’t it be so nice to just click over and read up on the grunt that was hitting on me while he rambled on about himself?) My gut feeling was that Mark was high, but I have no proof.

Ding! Ding! As Mark went on and on, our silver-haired friend Tom faded into my VIP room by way of the IM feature in the lower right-hand corner. The conversation mostly went like this:

Tom: “Why did you accept my friendship?”
Karen: “Are you filling out a market survey?” (Seemed as if he was fishing to see if I was attracted to his elderly, statesman-like profile picture.)
Tom: “I’m quite a bit older than you.”
Karen: “I can see that, duh.”
Tom: “Would you like me to vanish?”
Karen: “If you want to.”
Tom: “Should I take a couple of steps back?’
Karen: [lengthy pause] (I’m thinking, don’t trip on your walker, Grandpa.) “Do you know my friend, Lynn, whose friend list you found me on?”
Tom: “Does anyone really know anyone on FB?”

Karen: “Yes.”

Since I had both of these tools on the screen at the same time, I decided to screw with them by asking how long they had known each other and that they could easily IM each other right then. No response. Also, I implied they were gay together, just to be antagonistic. No reply. It seemed as if last call at the club had elapsed and everybody had clicked-off, a little pissed-off.

Saturday afternoon ushered in an email on my “real” home email account. It was from Kelly Dane, an old high school and FB friend. Kelly is a natural beauty of Scandinavian descent. She has got fantastic cheekbones and is a definite head-turner. Apparently unaffected Kelly received a FB friendship request from the “Silver Bullet”, Tom. It was so cute when Kelly mentioned that she couldn’t find Tom in our yearbook, to help jog her memory of this long-lost school pal. I had to break it to her that Tom was around sixty, certainly not in our yearbook and that he was out trying to “click-up chicks.”

I wanted Tom and Mark to know that I definitely knew what they had been up to—scanning girls’ pictures and hoping for some contact with them. After going back to Tom and Mark’s walls, I noticed that they had been whitewashed—nary a trace of last night’s endeavors, not even a collage. And after closer inspection, many of their friends were actually celebrities instead of interactive FBers. This prompted me to compose a “note” and send it out to 25 male and female FB friends, including the perverts:

“”clicking up chicks” is when weird men ‘collect’ female FBers just for the headshot on their guest list, chance to be a voyeur, and/or hope to actually meet them in person.

For example:

Last night, I exchanged comments and postings with some guys who combed friends of friends lists to ‘click-up chicks.’ ”

It didn’t take long for some comments to come pouring in. I found it very amusing when I got a remark from an innocent male that said, “WTF am I doing on this note?!?”

Not surprisingly, I soon discovered that Tom and Mark had deleted me. Knowing that Lynn likely still had access to Tom’s page, I immediately “inboxed” (where all the high-flying action really is) her and asked her to go check on Tom’s wall. I waited, with white knuckles, to see what, if any, activity was going on over in Tom’s VIP lounge. Lynn shoved the new information in my inbox:

Mark: “Just had my first negative FB experience. That Karen is a psycho. She is saying we are stalkers, could not read our humor. You should do yourself a favor. Treat her like a rodent, pick her by the tail, hold your nose, and discard.”

All that did was confirm my hunch that those two deserved a “sting operation” and that I had been correct, especially since they had just “made friends” the day before. Now they’ve got each other’s backs!

Time has passed, the dust has settled, and I have not had a FB Friday night like that one since. However, I have continued to let more strangers into my VIP suite, but only after they accept my, “You may come in, but no BS or you’re gone,” disclaimer. Also, I only allow them in my room if I have seen several numbers of their posts on my real friends’ walls.

Occasionally, I do get random-as-hell friendship requests where there are no “mutual friends.” Like now, I have a cheesy-looking man from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) rotting in my FB inbox. He is wearing a woven satin, fitted vest over a wildly printed blouse and holding up his cell phone in a coy manner, like he is daring me to “connect” with him.

Scratching my head, for UAE-guy and I have no obvious links. Finally, I connected the dots: those FB groups. Oh! My personal Pied Piper, Lynn Zeid, suggested I join the elitist group, “I Say ‘F*CK’ and I’m Still Classy,” and that is where this gem of manhood must have found me.

Damn, I’m still starring in that Afterschool Special back from adolescence. I haven’t learned a thing, but I have since resigned my membership to that “F-word” club. Hopefully, that will keep some of those Cheese Nips at bay.

* All names have been changed.

**I have since converted to being an “open-armed FBer.” I have yet to again experience anything like I did with Mark Bridges.

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