In the past few months, you may have gotten a Facebook "friend" request from one Tom Murphy. And you may have assumed that the "Tom Murphy" in question was Pittsburgh's former mayor. Apparently, many others did: Among the people listed as "friends" of the Tom Murphy Facebook page are such local pols as city councilors Bill Peduto, Doug Shields, and Bruce Kraus. There are a couple of Murphy's former aides in there, as well as such local luminaries as Pittsburgh Filmmakers head Charlie Humphrey, PUMP executive director Erin Molchany, Sprout Fund poobah Cathy Lewis Long, and a bunch of others. Even some news personalities like Andrew Stockey and Dimitri Vassilaros.
Heck, even the reigning queen of the Burghosphere, Virginia "Jane Pitt" Montanez, is listed as a friend of Murphy's, as is CP contributor Frances Sansig Monahan and a couple folks from our marketing department.
But this isn't that Tom Murphy. Unless, of course, our mayor was a much more colorful person than I previously gave him credit for being. Because this Tom Murphy lists among his interests such activities as: sex, "going to discos," collecting dolls, politics, procrastinating, and renaissance faires.
Oh, and also "men."
While the former mayor now works for the Washington D.C.-based Urban Land Institute, this Tom Murphy desribes himself as living in Fort Lauderdale -- though he ID's Pittsburgh as his hometown. His political views are "left of liberal," and he describes himself as being "in an open relationship."
Doesn't sound much like our mayor, does it? Come to that, the very idea of Mayor Murphy asking for friends seems a bit out of character. But many were apparently drawn in by Murphy's requests for friendship -- based on his name, and perhaps the names of other people who were signed up already.
"I just saw that a lot of people I knew were already friends, and so I signed up too," one of the CP marketing staffers told me. Such are the perils of social networking.
Councilor Bill Peduto candidly admits being taken in. "I signed up early," he told me, "back in November or December. I got a message that said, 'Tom Murphy needs more friends,' and I thought, 'Wow, nothing has changed.'"
Peduto says he thinks the site actually did have Mayor Murphy's photo displayed at one time, though he recalls seeing few posts. "Oh look," he said to me while perusing old comments on the page, "I sent him a 'happy birthday' message last year." ("Tom Murphy" thanked him for the wishes.)
Peduto said there was nothing too suspicious about the lack of activity. "It just seemed like the kind of page you have when somebody tells you 'You should get on Facebook,'" he says.
A moment later, Peduto noticed that "Tom Murphy" was a 1982 graduate of Chartiers Valley H.S. Peduto himself graduated from the school a year later.
"This has got to be an East End thing," Peduto speculates -- a conclusion he bases partly on the sheer number of mutual friends he and "Tom Murphy" have in common.
It isn't exactly clear how much "Tom Murphy" did to encourage this confusion. Peduto admits not having visited it much. Thus, he was surprised to see that Tom Murphy had at some point updated his "about me" description to include the following:
"My life is performance art and everything is a stage, a medium and a source for my art. If you want to join me on this artistic adventure, please keep being my Facebook friend."
And in January, "Tom Murphy" posted that he "is amused that so many people 'friended' based on scant evidence" ... and "cling to the impression" that he is the former mayor.
The page's author warns people not to be so trusting in the future, but added that "He hopes that you will not unfriend him now that you know the truth."
So will Peduto be "unfriending" the page? "No," he says. "Especially now that I know he's a Char Valley guy."
UPDATE: Frances Monahan, who as noted above is a "friend" of the Murphy Facebook page, has since heard from its author. He wanted to share a message with me, and since it clarifies the author's position on some points I raise in the post, I'm sharing with you. It reads as follows:
Please tell your friend Chris Potter that I am flattered by all his attention! He's a handsome, sexy, witty and intelligent man. I think I once met him at the old Pegasus! But I want to clarify something. Maybe you can pass this message along to him. I first joined Facebook to search for a long-lost friend (I did not find him). And upon joining, all I did was put in minimal information--my name and hometown. It was not very long before (based on this very minimal information) I started getting friend requests from all sorts of people. Luminaries, even. People like Bill Peduto, Doug Shields, Bruce Kraus, Eve Picker. That's right, THEY all sent friend requests to me. Not the other way around! Of course I knew what was going on--I didn't just get off the boat yesterday ya' know! But it was fun and I was flattered by all the attention from minor Pittsburgh celebrities. I started to drop clear hints that I was not former Mayor Murphy. I've even said so blatantly. But still the friend requests kept coming! I've only recently started sending freind requests to anyone and everyone. I also recently fleshed out (oh, how I love "fleshing out," but that is another story!!) my profile with full information. That information, as Mr. Potter points out, makes it clear that I am not THAT Tom Murphy. Well, I just think it is funny and I also think that people ought to be careful about who they try to be friends with online. You never really know who the person is. Bil Peduto is (as is so often the case with City Council Members), confused. Deeply confused. I NEVER posted a photo of the other Tom Murphy on my FB age. Never Never Never.
I can't speak to the accuracy of the claims made here. Bill Peduto was not the only person to tell me he saw Murphy's photo on the site, but we're talking about months-old recollections here. And who knows? Maybe people just desperately wanted to see Murphy's face again, and projected their longing onto the blank "profile" shot.
For what it's worth, I have been to Pegasus a few times -- every CP staffer was required to go there, back in the day. But the characterization of me as "sexy" makes me suspect that this time, "Tom Murphy" has confused me with someone else.