Cafe Witness

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Social Media Etiquette of Facebook

After holding out for years, I finally joined Facebook last week for business reasons. (Namely, a client asked me to manage their Facebook account, and I couldn't do it without being a member.)

And now, only a week later, I'm ready to cancel my account.

It's not that I don't like Facebook. (I actually don't care enough about it to like it or dislike it.) It's that I already have other means to stay in touch with the people in my life, so Facebook seems like one more redundant outpost in an ever-thickening sea of social media distractions.

That, and I've already run up against the same experience-cheapening bugaboo that crippled my experience on MySpace -- the obligation to add friends. My girlfriend became flabbergasted when she learned that I hadn't added everyone who'd requested my friendship on Facebook, and she wasn't buying my excuse -- that I didn't see the need to keep up on a daily basis with every single one of them -- as a valid one.

Herewith, our argument:

Ann's Point of View

By joining Facebook, I've silently opted in to playing by the site's publicly-agreed upon code of ethics. Part of that code involves the automatic acceptance of anyone who bothers to send you a friend request -- at least as long as you actually know that person. As she sees it, why would you join a public site like Facebook and then suddenly become choosy about whom you "allow" to see your public information? NOT accepting every friend request that comes my way is incredibly impolite, and is a basic misuse of the service.

Justin's Point of View

By joining Facebook, I've agreed to nothing beyond the explicitly stated terms of service. The site provides an experience that I, as the user, am in control of, not an unspoken code of conduct. And part of that experience involves me deciding whom I need (or want) to keep in touch with on a daily basis. As mentioned previously, nearly anyone I interact with these days has numerous ways to already get in touch with me -- am I not then allowed to use Facebook as a more private version of a public space? Or must I bend to the will of anyone with the balls to request my friendship, because that's simply how it's done?

What do you think?

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6 Comments:

  • I always look at it this way:

    If it's someone that I know who is requesting me to add them then I add them. Otherwise you have people who feel slighted because you added Jimmy and Susie but not them.

    If it's someone I don't know I check them out and if they seem normal (by my standards) then I add them. But, I think it's fine to ignore people you don't know.

    By Blogger Jason, at 10:54 AM  

  • Good question, do I really need to add people because we went to the same high school and barely knew one another? Yes. You can't expect your info is in anyway secure, so why try fake exclusivity? The world grows smaller.

    By Blogger Vincent Robleto, at 11:16 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Erica Ortiz, at 2:29 PM  

  • I think it depends more on how and why you are using facebook. If you are sharing your info with the world, then it seems a bit hypocritical not to add an aquaintance.

    But if you limit it to only those in your inner circle, then yes, be selective. In that case, Facebook is serving a different purpose for you and by all means use it the way that you intend.

    Me personally, I wanted to get info out about my race team. What started as only friends, has turned into adding anyone race-related or not spam. Its great for promoting my team, but in all the noise, I lost track of the conversation with friends.

    Now I wish I had a 2 accounts: a private one for my inner circle, and a public one for everyone else.

    By Blogger Erica Ortiz, at 2:29 PM  

  • I'm with you. You don't need to accept a friend request just because someone sent one to you. Facebook is meant to be (or at least it’s sold as) a social utility to help you connect with your real world contacts (the one's you want to connect with), not a social network for friending anyone that comes along (i.e. MySpace). You get to decide who you let in the circle, by whatever arbitrary filter you decide.

    I do find Facebook useful for staying in touch, making connections and getting to know people better, but if you have enough ways to connect with your network I can see why you wouldn’t want to add another. Like Erica said, it really all depends on how you want to use it.

    By Anonymous Larissa Gaston, at 5:10 PM  

  • I agree with your girlfriend. While I understand your point, it seems almost rude if you don't accept someone's friend request that you know. They could assume that you are upset with them or something equally as lame, just because of that.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 5:02 PM  

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