Fake Friends on Facebook

November 8, 2007

by Jessica Zeiler
Middle school

Sometimes I wonder if the universe put an invisible-only-to-me "Mock Me" sign on my back during my middle school years. (I really did have a Kick Me sign on my back, one time.)

My family moved from suburban Rhode Island to rural Virginia when I was ten years old. I had gotten picked on here and there in Rhode Island but I still managed to make friends and find my niche. I had hopes of finding the same niche in Virginia but it was not to be -- the new kids were into country music, colored jeans, and pretending to date one another. I wore stretch pants, liked Disney and Broadway music, and thought boys were gross. Did I mention I was also the only Jewish person in my grade?

The toughest part of my new school was that it was small and private; some of the kids had been there since kindergarten, and many of us were stuck with each other until we graduated from high school. There were few ways to escape the bullies.

I don't even know if I could catalog every indignity I suffered at the hands of my classmates, but a few incidents really stick out:


  • One group of girls was lower in the social pecking order, so I could get away with sitting near them -- though not with them since they mostly ignored me or were mean to me. One day the ring leader, who was a very bossy type, started telling me that I couldn't sit near them, that the space was saved for her imaginary friend. I ignored her at first, then brushed it off, but everyone else started sticking up for this “imaginary friend” who was going to come and eat lunch with them and needed my seat. I finally gave up and ran out of the lunch room, crying so hard I started to panic and hyperventilate.

  • Another time, a church group came in and handed out Bibles to everyone, despite the fact that my school was supposed to be non-denominational. I opted not to take one since it was a New Testament Bible. Later, on the playground, everyone was reading their Bibles, and one kid asked me why I didn't have one. I tried to explain that I was Jewish, and he said, “Well that means you're going to Hell.” The best part was that a teacher lectured the kid about using bad language, while ignoring the obvious insult to my faith.

  • One girl was obsessed with talking about me having cooties. Any time I accidentally brushed up against her she would scream, “Oh my God, Jessica gave me cooties!”

  • One boy called me assorted names that were all variations on the word “prostitute.” The worst part was that when I told a teacher, she not only didn't do anything about it, but later claimed to forget I ever told her about it. The second worst thing: the principal promised my mother that the boy would be forced to apologize to me, but he never did. The third worst thing? The kid in question was from a family so very rich and powerful that the school's street was named after them. Anyone connecting the dots?

  • One day I was reading a book and minding my own business when a really nasty girl took a three-hole punch, emptied out all the little punched paper circles in my hair, and made jokes about how I had dandruff.

What do all these kids have in common, besides making my life a living hell? They all now want to be my friends on Facebook.

For those who don't know, Facebook (www.facebook.com) is a website where you can post a profile of yourself and connect with friends. I made a profile about a year and a half ago, and it has been a bizarre social experiment to see all these kids come out of the woodwork. I hadn't seen or spoken to any of them in nearly five years. And to be fair, most switched from picking on me to ignoring my existence by the time we reached ninth grade.

Still, I don't know what instinct makes people seek me out and want to be my fake friend online. Do any of them regret their past actions? Are they curious about what I'm doing with my life, now that I've been out of high school for five years? Or are they just obsessed with having everyone they ever knew in their life as a friend on Facebook?

The funny thing is that during those terrible years one of my favorite fantasies -- besides becoming a famous writer/actress and dating Leonardo DiCaprio -- was becoming a famous writer/actress/director who would triumphantly return to my class reunion with Leonardo DiCaprio. I would be fabulous and I'd snub everyone who ever hurt my feelings. (Which would probably leave me with about 2 people to talk to.)

The reality is that I'm not famous, Leonardo DiCaprio still hasn't called me, and I will probably never go to a class reunion. At least maybe not until my tenth year reunion when I have published a Nobel Prize-winning book about my terrible adolescent years, and can really snub my ex-classmates because I'll have exposed their terrible behavior in an award-winning book.

Or I can try to put it all behind me and just let my old bullies be my fake friends on the Internet, because maybe living well is the best revenge.

Posted by Shan & Jen at 12:01 AM  

11 comments:

Thanks for sharing this episode about your life! I read it with great interest, and I'm wondering about the reaction of the teachers to such a behavior of their pupils. They should've been the ones to tell them this isn't alright what they do to you! And this was only FIVE years ago?!! What a shame on them!
As for Facebook: I once registered but couldn't really figure out what to do with it. I love MySpace where I can really design my page, not only start a mere profile. It's much more fun!

elli61 said...
8/11/07 1:13 PM  

dd

elli61 said...
8/11/07 1:13 PM  

XWS

elli61 said...
8/11/07 1:14 PM  

You know, you might just let one of those folks be your friend in Facebook and see what happens. (Say, maybe the one who was the least bad to you...)

My experience is that as grown-ups, people DO feel bad for the things they did to other kids when they were smaller--I know I do, anyway--and from the vantage point of 20 years out of high school, I can tell you that at my reunions, it seemed like people were mostly beyond labels and cliques. Sure, by the end of the evening everyone's in their cliques again, because they are reminiscing and you don't have memories with the people you didn't know, but I also had some really interesting conversations with people I didn't know back then (or knew but didn't hang with).

That said, my daughter just started at a private school and I am acutely aware of the kinds of issues you brought up. It's just horrible that the administration and staff of your school played into what was goin on and didn't try to stop it.

Anyway, thanks for sharing--and I hope some of those folks will turn around and surprise you someday.

Giddy said...
8/11/07 1:17 PM  

You should actually accept their invite and then write on their wall something like:"do you remember the time when you called me a wh--e for weeks? awww, the memories!"

On the plus side, I just read an article which highlighted that the majority of bullies ended up not finishing school and with very unaccomplished lives. HA! HA!

thanks for sharing.

Captain Blog said...
8/11/07 7:51 PM  

Having moved from a very populated area of CO to a very rural area of NE my sophomore year, I can relate to your experiences (although HS is different that middle school, but the bullying and ignoring aspect are the same)

I also encountered the "Lets be friends" of everyone I ever knew and all those that tormented me. I made them wait...and wait and wait. I eventually accepted them. I read their pages and saw that they had not evolved inthe many years since I knew them and so I left. I deleted my account and have not looked back.

I will say though that it is satisfying to know they are still as unsatisfied with life now as they were then.

Christy said...
9/11/07 12:42 PM  

I know EXACTLY how you feel. I've never been to my high school reunions, and I think they just had my 25th. The only time I want to see ANYONE from my high school is if they happen to be pumping my gas or bagging my groceries.

Muddleman said...
9/11/07 5:43 PM  

I went to a tony boarding school for high school and had an incident in which most of the school and just about everyone in my dorm turned against me. I will never forget the dorm mistress, Amy Richards, telling me one day as I was passing by in the common room, "I know you're having a hard time right now, Anna, but there's nothing I can do about it. So I won't." And she shrugged and turned away.

Nearly 20 years later, I still hear this as if it were yesterday.

Anna said...
9/11/07 9:36 PM  

Hugs. I don't even want to talk about mine...in grade school,high school or college. Yes, they all want to be my friends now. They make me thankful that I blog anonymously. They make angry/want to vomit when I run into them...with very few exceptions.Calmly pretending you don't remember them upsets them for some reason despite all their bad behavior (that they thought made them superior)....then you see the fake smiles turn to bewilderment and a hurried rush to escape...I guess it is a bizarre flight instinct that they have replaced the quaint tradition known as an apology with. Yes, all the bullies are losers now...and they are losing out on my friendship to this day.

9/11/07 11:38 PM  

5 yrs ago? Do you have the memory of elephants?

Forgive and forget. You and them were different people at the time. You've changed, they've changed, and a facebook friend is no big deal. It's not like suddenly you're BFF.

And here I am looking for fake profiles on facebook.

rXXXXx said...
4/5/08 10:15 AM  

Adults can be fake friends as well. I recently graduated from college and it was very interesting seeing the number of people who were fake nice to my face who just deleted me from Facebook. So be wary, it's not just teenagers that do this type of thing, adults do too. The ironic part is we might end up working together as it's a specialized niche profession.

Anonymous said...
13/7/08 11:49 PM  

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