Thursday, August 19, 2010

Facebook friend-iquette

OMG, I love Facebook! So much so that I've been known to spend an inordinate amount of my online time on it, much to my own detriment at times. I've vowed to cut back, and I have a bit, but I have a ways to go before I will feel like I've achieved the right balance. (My husband will be so happy the day that happens!)

Given my love for Facebook, most of the time I view it as a really great invention. It has allowed me a much better, more convenient, and more interactive way of staying in touch with my family and close friends who don't live nearby, in that we can look at each others' pictures, chat, send messages and post on each others' Walls. Of course there is still a lot of value in talking by phone and - better yet - face-to-face, but when that's not possible or practical, Facebook certainly comes in handy.

It's also proven to be a really cool tool in that it has helped me reconnect with lost friends and coworkers, and former classmates from decades ago. I've reconnected with my oldest friend, whom I met when I was 4 years old and we lived across the street from each other, not to mention probably 3/4 (if not more) of my graduating class, and it has been so wonderful and fun to renew those connections and see what everyone is up to. I've been out of high school for 18 years now, and our class has only had two reunions in that time, neither of which I was able to attend. With the 20-year reunion looming large, I find myself really looking forward to it now that I've been in touch with so many people from my class through Facebook. How nice it will be to not feel nervous about seeing everyone again, because I can "see" them every day if I want to!

Then again, there are times when I think of Facebook as not so good a thing. I say that because of how easy it is to snub and hurt people in passive-aggresive ways. One of them is by ignoring friend requests, and another is by "unfriending" former FB friends. Given how prevalent FB is in the social stratosphere, having your friend request ignored or being unfriended is kind of a slap in the face.

I know that there are some out there who think it's absolutely INSANE to have hundreds of Facebook friends, and they will roll their eyes and gnash their teeth and grumble about how there is NO WAY that a person is REALLY "friends" with all those people, and say that those people only do it for the numbers, and they themselves would NEVER friend on FB anyone they weren't REALLY GOOD friends with, blah, blah, blah.

Well, sure -- that might be true in some cases. Absolutely. And if that's your personal policy regarding Facebook, that's great -- for YOU.

In my situation, I've got over 400 FB friends. I never set out to hit a certain number or anything like that. All I've ever wanted to do was connect with my existing friends and family and reconnect with old friends with whom I'd lost touch. The latter category just so happens to include childhood friends, former classmates, former neighbors, and former coworkers I had good relationships with, which makes it a pretty broad category, encompassing at least 30 years of my 36 years on the planet! These are people I never disliked or cut out of my life for any negative reasons; just people I drifted apart from due to moves, changes in life, changes in jobs, etc. and it would've been impossible to keep in touch with all of them in the old traditional ways of writing letters and making phone calls, in the pre-electronic age. The simple fact that Facebook now exists has made reconnecting and staying in touch stupidly easy, and for that I'm grateful.

Where I'm going with this is here: When I send someone a friend request, or I accept a friend request from someone else, it's because I have made the thoughtful, conscious choice to reconnect with that person, because I genuinely want to be connected with that person. It has nothing to do with wanting to have a certain number of FB friends or me just being nosey; it has everything to do with continuing or reviving certain relationships in my life. I would never want someone to accept my friend request or to request me as a friend on Facebook simply to snoop and be nosey, or so they can later snub me by unfriending me, although I'm sure it happens.

I've had a few friend requests ignored and I've been unfriended a few times, and bottom line, it never feels good. In fact, it sucks. And when I realize I've been unfriended by someone, I always find myself dwelling on WHY that person felt the need to unfriend me, especially if it was someone I was FB friends with for a pretty long time. And the crappiest part is that you pretty much have to accept that you'll never have an answer to that question, because who is really going to confront someone who unfriended them? Not this girl, that's for sure! No; in the end, I have to shrug my shoulders and figure I'm better off for it.

All of that said, I will admit that I, too, have ignored a few friend requests and unfriended a few people, but I do it very rarely and only for pretty clear reasons.

REASONS I'VE IGNORED FRIEND REQUESTS:

-- If I don't know you personally, chances are very good that I'm not going to accept your friend request. I don't need to expose myself, my family or my life to strangers. This is also why I've got my privacy settings locked up tighter than Fort Knox. The two exceptions I've made to this rule (and only in rare cases) are virtual friends I've made through my writing/blogging, and friends-of-friends to whom I've been virtually introduced and had a great connection with.

-- If I do know you but our relationship is definitely not good or I have reason to seriously question your motives for wanting access to me through Facebook, I'm going to ignore your request.

-- If I know you or know of you but you've weirded me out in prior situations, I'm not accepting the friend request. For obvious reasons.

REASONS I'D UNFRIEND OTHERS:

-- You're stalking me through FB. By this I mean chatting me every single time you see I'm online, or you're being inappropriate in your FB communications with me.

-- Your posts are all spam (like Farmville or any of the other annoying apps) and never personal thoughts or updates.

-- Your posts are creepy and/or disturbing.

-- If I find out that you're only FB friends with me to get information to share with others, not because you genuinely want to be in touch with me.

I don't like hurting other peoples' feelings. Have I done it a time or two in my life? Unfortunately, yes; I'm human. Usually it has happened because I wasn't thinking before I did or said something, and I've felt truly awful when it has happened. (Seriously, no one could possibly understand how much of a toll my own guilt or shame takes on me when I know I've hurt someone's feelings, and those who know me best will vouch for that.) Even in situations where I'm ignoring a Facebook request from someone I don't know, I feel a little bit bad for it because I know how it feels to be rejected in that way. But the bottom line with Facebook is that I have to look out for my own and my family's safety and well-being.

So, AESW readers, I'm curious to know what YOUR personal Facebook policies are, so please share in the comments section. Do you ignore friend requests and unfriend people, and if so, why? How do you feel when it happens to you? I think it will be really interesting to compare notes on this given how big Facebook has gotten and how many of us use it to stay in touch with people in our lives.

SW

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