Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Facebook Social Norms

Facebook Friend Requests

A few weekends ago I was in Texas at a friend's wedding. We were having a good ol' time enjoying some adult beverages, chatting about old classmates and of course, someone brought up Facebook. I mentioned that someone we all know won't accept me as a friend on Facebook, and while I don't really care (it's not like I actually like this person or care what they are doing with their life), it was a bit irritating to be denied when I knew them in high school and college (and it turns out this person is friends with all my friends). We had a good laugh while I ranted about how silly the whole thing was. I swore that when I got back to my hotel room I was going to request again and in the request point out how irrational he/she was being. Because, in the converse, it's completely and total rational to continue to request to be someone's friend when they have no interest. When I did get back to the room, I had completely forgot about it and didn't send the request. (Thank goodness I didn't bring my lap top to Texas)

I have already created enough awkward situations with Facebook 2 am post-bar. Specifically, Person A bullied me in high school. In an undergraduate course, we talked about bullying. I go out with friends that night. Then at 2 am, it's clearly the perfect time to address Person A about said bullying and it's impact in society. The next morning I see I have a message. I don't immediately recall why I would have a message waiting for me until I read the response from Person A. I now remember my brilliant idea. Person A's response is pretty much everything my initial message is not. It's clearly written by a sober person. It's apologetic, thoughtful and actually uses punctuation, lowercase letters and refrains from explicit language. At this juncture, I decide to delete it and pretend it never happened. I have a feeling Person A did not have this attitude. This "incident" has pushed me to advocate for breathalyzers on all computers from the hours of midnight to 4 am.

I had forgotten about our Texas conversation (and my loud affirmations about friend requests) until this morning's commute. The radio station I listen to asked if anyone had an unusual friend request situation. One of the DJ's had received a friend request from someone he didn't really know, hadn't seen in years, and didn't particularly like. He had just left the request unanswered because he didn't know what to do with it. Then, after not seeing this friend requester for years, ran into him a few weeks after the friend request. The first thing the person asked the DJ was why hadn't he approved the request. The DJ mumbled some excuse about not checking his Facebook (although he had very recently posted new pictures of his son). When the DJ got home, he approved the request out of guilt.

So, now I'm thinking about Facebook, and the situation it has created in our society and the concept of "Facebook Friend." I personally approve requests based if I have met the person in real life. If I have met them, and they aren't creepy (and I mean like serial killer creepy. I have a pretty good threshold for just plain unusual creepy), I'll probably accept the request. Every once in a while I go through and weed out the people I haven't seen in years and don't plan on seeing and who I have no desire to know anything about. Oh and the people that are just too dang depressing. You know those people. The ones that only post very negative posts about their ex or their job or their situation. They could win a million dollars and they'd post about the taxes they have to pay. However, for the most part, I think if I ran into people I was Facebook friends with, I would probably have an actual conversation with them. I generally like most of them.

On the flip side, my husband gets severe guilt about denying friend requests. I've gone through his friends and asked him who people are and he often has no idea how he knows them. I find this very unusual. These people can access your information, and you aren't more picky? He just doesn't want to hurt people's feelings.

There is my dad who only approves people he's absolute real life friends with. This is from a professional side. He doesn't want employees as friends when he's their boss.

There's my mom who I'm not sure if she even knows how to deny a friend request (or even to accept it). The other day she was blown away to discover she could de-friend people. I had to guide her through the process, but in the end she deleted some people she didn't know very well.

Of course, most people (well except my husband) do a friend thinning out eventually. It may be because you've moved to a new stage in your life (when I had my daughter, I got rid of people I didn't really know so they couldn't see her pictures). You may have started a new job or are now applying for jobs. How do you decide who makes the cut? Close friends and family? People that aren't annoying? People that haven't posted seventeen status updates in an hour on such inspirational topics such as "it's raining" or "it's cold."

Have you ever discovered you've been de-friended? I had a girl I went to high school with (she's younger than I) de-friend me after being my Facebook friend for a couple of years. I only realized recently because I saw her post on a mutual friend's wall. No hard feelings especially since it took me two years to realize I had been de-friended. Obviously we're not close.

I once had this guy that I was kinda friends with in undergrad (but not close with by any means) send a message me and about 30 other people. It said that if you got this message, you hadn't commented on his posts or wrote on his wall and since you didn't do so, you clearly didn't care about him. Then the ultimatum, he was going to give us a week to post something on his wall or he was going to delete us as friends. Well, that's unusual. It's quite impressive that he went used so much time and effort to determine out of his friends list who hadn't been active on his profile. So, I save him some clicks and de-friend him myself.

I've had friends that have noticed their friends list shrink when they started to post politically charged statuses or links. I'm an equally opportunity political friend approver. I have friends that are all faiths and political parties and don't really mind when they say crazy things. It's probably one of the more entertaining aspects of Facebook. However, if you are too crazy, expect a comment. I would expect one in the converse. If you post that Obama is Muslim or that he wasn't born in the United States or that Michele Bachman should be elected, I'm probably going to show you why this is completely ridiculous. It's my civic duty.

I have had one friend request denied by an ex-boyfriend. I get it. We're not dating. Haven't really talked in a while. But honestly, don't you think we've moved on? Can't we be adults? Oh well. Or there's one of my best friends who I'm going to be a bridesmaid in her wedding who de-friended me because I played a prank on her. But it's not like she's changed her photo in 50 years or ever posted a status. Not much of a loss. ;p

I also have a pet peeve. If my Newsfeed is filled with your Farmville requests, I'll probably hide your posts. I assume you'll do the same if you're sick of hearing about my kid or craft projects.

I worked with a guy once that any time he saw someone walking by that he had requested to be friends with, he would call them over. He would then ask them, in front of co-workers and customers, why they had denied his Facebook friend request. They all had some sort of excuse. (Mostly they didn't bother to go on Facebook) It comes down to this little fact: if you're willing to call someone out on your friend request, you have just proved why they don't want to be friends with you. So going back to fellow college and high school student, maybe this is why this person hasn't approved my request. Or maybe they are just a Jerk. Yeah. Probably just a Jerk.



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