Along with the shocking number of Mafia Wars invites I get on Facebook, I continue to get daily friend requests from people I have never met or had any contact with. Almost all of these invites have a similar personalized message attached…
“We’re already friends on [some other social network]“… so let’s be Facebook Friends!”
If you’ve sent me a connection request in the past and you’ve never gotten that “Steffan has accepted your friend request” notification back, please don’t take it personally. If I don’t know you well, you’ll have to settle for Twitter, FriendFeed, my Youtube or Vimeo account, my blog or (gasp!) email…I’m keeping Facebook a friends-only affair. Here’s the logic behind my “True Friends Only” rule for Facebook…
Keeping Interaction Meaningful and Personal
I’ll admit that I’m a promiscuous linker on most public social networks. I auto-follow back anyone who wants to follow me on Twitter (so I can DM) and follow large targeted groups of people on FriendFeed to listen to industry news etc, but Facebook is the only place where every single person I’m connected to, I know well. The fact that I have a personal connection to every face I see when I log on to Facebook makes the experience much more interesting and meaningful. I’ve got around 700 people from my life I’m connected to on Facebook – all my family members, hundreds of people I went to school or worked with, friends I’ve had experiences with, people whose blogs I’ve been following and commenting on for years – these are deep relationships I’ve developed over time, and so news, photos and thoughts I read from these people have personal significance to me. Having a place where I can maintain those relationships and keep the interaction meaningful keeps my time in Facebook fun, personal and interesting – and that’s what separates it from all the other platforms out there for me.
Public-ness vs. Private-ness: How Safe Space Changes What We Share And How We Behave
I wrote a lengthy post back in March called Status Culture – Public vs Private and Why It Matters where I go into detail about the differences between how relationships are structured on Twitter vs. Facebook and how it changes interaction patterns and norms. If you’re interested in the technical aspects of community building and interaction you may enjoy the post – it’s one of the most popular articles on this blog. For the rest of you – here are the main arguments from the post that relate to this discussion -
Having (the perception of) private space changes the game, no question. Creating “trusted space” is not just about you, it’s about the perception your entire community has about the shared space (your wall, tagged photos etc). Having a place where my family and friends feel ok to be themselves and share personal elements of their lives is important. They don’t want random people I met on the internet being able to join in their discussions on my wall, or see photos I’ve tagged of them at a private event etc. Many of them wouldn’t dare use Twitter for it’s public-ness for that very reason, but they’re hyperactive Facebook users. The point is, when everyone assumes you’re actively controlling who sees what, the perception of what’s acceptable changes for your community, and with that shift in perception, who interacts and how often the do etc. changes in significant ways. By limiting my connections to just people I know, I create a space where the people I care about can share themselves without fear of the unwanted gaze of unfamiliar third parties.
Lest Ye Not Forget The Spam Problem
This one’s a no brainer. Most of the unknowns who solicit you for connections on Facebook (or any other social platform for that matter) care more about pushing their content on you than getting to know you better. Getting you to accept their friend request is just another way for them to promote themselves. Don’t let em’ in, and you’ll never have to roll your eyes when you start getting spammy messages from Johnny Life Coach.
The Accessibility and Portability Of Your True Social Graph Will Become Increasingly Important
This is a biggie. It’s crucial to realize where the social web is heading and how your social experiences are going to be stitched together in the future. Being choosy about your relationships doesn’t matter as much now as it will. Social networking is still in its infancy and many analysts believe that in just a few years, we’ll be carrying our social graphs with us wherever we go on the web (your graph, your data, everything). Social colonization (the next phase of the social web) is already starting to surface with technologies like open ID, and Facebook is priming itself to be a hub with Facebook Connect. There will likely be a day when you’ll be glad you were discerning about the way you created your relationships on social platforms like Facebook because they will define you and shape your experience more and more as the technology evolves.
Now that I’ve provided my thoughts, I’d like to hear yours. I know a lot of my friends and many successful bloggers do exactly the opposite to what I’m doing, and they have their reasons. I’m curious to hear other points of view on any of this. How important is protecting your true social graph to you?