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Choosing Your Facebook Friends

March 5th, 2009 · 16 Comments · Social Media, Social network

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...Discussion about friending people on Facebook has been going on for years: who do you friend and why? Do you accept all friend requests, or are you ruthlessly selective? Do you use it for business or just for close friends and family?

There are no right or wrong answers, but because people use it in different ways there will be misunderstandings at times. What if you’ve included your business network on Twitter and a relative posts something on your wall that’s a little too personal for your clients to know? How will deleting the comment, or un-tagging a photo affect your real-world relationship? There is great potential for drama and misunderstandings that may end in the ultimate action: unfriending.

Comedy troupe Idiots of Ants did a great skit about Facebook in Real Life, that hit the nail on the head about old school mates, and others, friending you and portraying the least desirable evidence of your past to the rest of your network.

Today on Twitter, I came across another entertaining example of how who you friend on Facebook and the 25 Things meme may cause you to scratch your head and wonder, “wtf?”

(Hat tip @JoeCascio @rhappe. Warning: strong language.)

With Facebook claiming the number one rank in social networks, you may have found that you are getting friend requests  from people who clearly lie outside of your initial plan of who you would connect with. Now what?

I find I’m struggling with this question. I originally started on Facebook with the sole idea of connecting with my widespread family, particularly my Gen Y nephews and nieces. It was an interesting experiment to invite all 13 of them to see who refused to friend their aunt (*ahem* even though I’m the cool aunt). This spread to good friends, then slowly started to expand outwards.

When I began adding more and more of my known business and Twitter network, I started removing the really personal parts of my profile and paying much closer attention to the information I was putting out there for all to see.

Complete strangers started to send me friend invitations and, after looking at their limited profiles, it was clear that we had some social media contacts in common, but without a personal message, I really didn’t know who they were. Ignore. Ignore. Ignore.

Then, I started having second thoughts. What if I was missing opportunities, business or otherwise, by restricting my friends to people I know personally or though direct contact on Twitter? Should I build my Facebook network and have strangers possibly become friends?

I’m waffling.

I actually went as far as contacting Facebook to find out if there was a way of retrieving all of the people whose invitations I ignored, just in case I decided to open it up. (Nope. Once they’re ignored, you can’t get them back.)  Right now, my Facebook request area is like Limbo while I decide how wide I want those doors to be.

So, what do  you think? Do I go mass market (not quite à la Scoble)? Or, do I keep things small and reasonably closed to people I’ve met in person, those I know well enough online and those who’ve bothered to write me a note about how they know me?

What’s your personal Facebook friend policy?

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16 Comments so far ↓

  • Vanilla Cokehead

    I decided last year to focus my social networking efforts into three arenas: Twitter, Facebook, and my personal blog. I keep my public stuff on Twitter and my blog. I’m most liberal on friending with Twitter; unless someone’s a spammer or a bot or appears to have no real interest in interacting with me, I’ll friend someone back on Twitter.

    Facebook’s another story. I used to be pretty liberal about friending people on Facebook; but I’ve tightened things up recently. I primarily keep personal and business contacts on Facebook – along with people with whom I regularly interact on Twitter or another online arena.

    One thing I use on Facebook pretty heavily is the ability to split friends into groups. I had this ability on my old blogging service, LiveJournal – and used it there.

    Whatever logic someone uses in managing their personal online presence, I strongly believe that the decisions are personal – and other people should respect that these decisions are personal. People have the right to friend or unfriend, filter or unfilter, block or unblock – without comment, explanation, or justification. If more people would adopt this as one of their primary online “rules of engagement”, there would be a lot less drama online and people would be happier on social networking sites.

  • Adele McAlear

    Thanks so much for your great comment. I have started using the groups on Facebook too. I especially like that you can set security levels for just about every feature according to group. It is a solution, but time consuming to set up.

    I suppose I could make a group for “Total Strangers” and set the security permissions quite tight. But then, I wonder what’s the point in that?

    You are right, people’s reasons for friending, or not, are very personal. Sadly, many who are denied, unfriended or filtered in some way, take it as a personal affront.

    Thanks for your perspective!

  • Chris Dalby

    I’ve never really had any emotional attchment to Facebook. So I just accept all friend requests. I have, like you, stripped loads out of my facebook profile. So now it is just a tool for distributing my content to a huge range of people.

    Interesting to see the tweets that get responses on twitter and then those that get responses on facebook. Rarely do i get responses from both locations to the same tweet.

    So for me, I gave up trying to have a personl facebook for family and friends pretty much when I signed up.

  • adelemcalear (Adele McAlear)

    Twitter Comment

    @yellopark Thanks for your comment on my post about choosing Facebook friends. You had a great perspective :) [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • yellowpark (Chris Dalby)

    Twitter Comment

    @AdeleMcAlear great post about farcebook. this comes up all the time. as i have no real friends, it is just a tool :) [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Tawny Press

    Great post. Allowing people, other than family and friends, was once a confliction for me too. At one time Linkedin was the place I interacted with business connections, but soon discovered Twitter was the place I found most valuable.

    Eventually, I had a desire to know more about Twitter friends and decided to open up Facebook. I look at each invite, and make a decision, knowing I can remove them if it becomes a problem. Up until now, I have excepted each invite and have not had the need to remove anyone from Facebook.

    I believe one reason, is mutual trust. People are inviting you into their network, which in most cases also contains their family and friends. I say “trust” because they run the same risk of you posting information that may object when inviting you. People that have been in Social Media for a period of time have learned the subtleties of etiquette.

    Facebook has helped me really engage, far beyond other networks. I enjoy the pictures, posts, links and daily updates. Getting to know them on a personal level has been invaluable, when meeting through a virtual experience.

    Now on the other side is family and friends, which in some cases have not learned the subtleties of etiquette. At first I was tense about what some family would post on my wall, like childhood or high school photos, but decided we all have them, and a few pictures aren’t going to change who I am, even if some are embarrassing.

    In regards to internet, I keep one thing in mind, if you put it on the internet it is there forever. So use good judgment.

  • tawnypress (Tawny Press)

    Twitter Comment

    Choosing Your Facebook Friends. Great post @AdeleMcAlear [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • christammiller (christammiller)

    Twitter Comment

    RT @tawnypress: Choosing Your Facebook Friends. Great post @AdeleMcAlear [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Christa M. Miller

    I waffle on Facebook as well. Right now I am most connected with other moms I have known online for years, though there are a couple of other writers I talk to and other business contacts.

    Facebook for me is just not as clear-cut as LinkedIn or MySpace (which I use for my fiction pursuits) or Twitter (which I use for networking). Relationships on Facebook seem like they “should” be deeper than on Twitter – maybe that’s the problem?

  • Sprite

    This hits home with a blog post I’ve been thinking of doing about Twitter & Facebook. It’s for each of our own uses. Truly. I’ve been whittling my personal FaceBook down. I don’t need a popularity contest or to see how many people I can gather on to one list. I need real friends that are really interested in knowing me and forming real friendships. People that I don’t have to worry about what I say in front of.

    As for work and family. I keep them all separate. I’d never mix my work with family or my family with friends. *laughs* It’s just not possible. So, I think it all boils down into “know what you’ve got”.

    *hugs* Really good article :)

  • Tawny Press

    Interesting comment by Christa M. Miller. “Relationships on Facebook seem like they “should” be deeper than on Twitter”. I view it as a lack of engagement by members.

    I can’t locate the post, but I read something on Jeff Pulver’s blog last year, somewhat of a test. Select few people on Facebook, who you rarely engage, and message them. Set time limit and if they don’t answer, remove them. Interesting, only one of the five I selected answered. I looked at their profiles and they had been active, just too busy I assume to answer.

    The difference between Twitter and Facebook, is people invest the time to engage. Honestly, I check Facebook each day and look over what everyone is doing, but I fail to directly connect with people first. Something I need to improve myself.

  • tawnypress (Tawny Press)

    Twitter Comment

    @AdeleMcAlear Your post has hit a nerve with me today :) [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • Annie Boccio

    I went through the same decision process, and it came down realizing that I was connecting with people I know on Facebook, who will probably never connect with me on Twitter, or become regular readers of my blog. This includes family members, old classmates, old friends…

    So I decided to set my Facebook boundaries. I only friend people I’ve “talked” to (whether it be in person or online.) and even then I tend to ignore people I know in a strictly business sense. I do have a limited profile group with a very small number of folks in it, but it’s not just about my privacy- I don’t want to see my newsfeed full of other people’s business posts! It’s a playground for me. Do I promote my stuff there? Sure, but only the stuff that my friends and family might be interested in.

  • banannie (annie boccio)

    Twitter Comment

    @AdeleMcAlear great post about who to friend on Facebook [link to post]

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  • sean808080

    Thought I’d re-share this tweet:

    Facebook head-palm moment. someone I didn’t know from HS added me on fb when i accepted, she told me she didn’t know me either. wtf?!

    That’s what I get for being a little more flexible about accepting friend requests. I usually only accept people I have met at one time or another or know well from online.

  • Otir

    My personal Facebook policy has been the following: people who know me, they know my real name, but they do not know the email address I used to register to Facebook, because in my personal relationships I use another one.

    So if someone is requesting my friendship because they scanned their email address book, they must be “strangers”, and I do not take their requests.

    I did not find that Facebook was the most useful social media for me. I saw it – maybe wrongly – as a good means to keep in touch with the very scattered friends and family, and have a single place to post current news, such as family events they can’t participate in because of geographical distance.

    But it turns out that the too open to public scrutinity has been a strong deterrent, even with my filters on. So I tend to not use it at all, and let all the hype about it fade away.

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