Sunday, January 11, 2009

No, I Am Not Your Facebook Friend

A long time ago, I registered myself on several social sites (Facebook, MySpace, Plaxo etc...).

Recently, Facebook was "discovered" by Czech users which means that I am now getting about 30 Facebook notifications in e-mail daily, most of which look like this:

"Honza added you as a friend on Facebook. We need to confirm that you know Honza in order for you to be friends on Facebook. To confirm this friend request, follow the link below."

When I go to, often I have no idea who that person is. Sometimes I know that person but - and this is the important bit - this doesn't mean the person is my friend.

Facebook seems to imply that knowing someone automatically means I am friends with him. That's certainly not true. There are dozens of people I know, I don't hate them, I don't think they are stupid, I'd even lend them money under some specific circumstances, but that doesn't mean they are my friends. If this feature was called "My contacts", I'd have no problems with it.

There are also people who I am friends with "virtually", over the net. Of course, I have no way of knowing that "Honza" is in fact "" who I am communicating with daily over Jabber.

Another thing that rubs me the wrong way is the fact that becoming friends with someone automatically makes me part of bizarre activities:

The thing on the right is a small part of what I see every day on Facebook (incidentally, these people are my real friends). I'd probably like to know details about why Robert Rameš loves me, because I always thought he was hetero, but when I click on "Click here", I must "Allow this application to access all your private data" and only after that I am allowed to see the whole truth (I quote):

"Fatal error: Uncaught exception 'FacebookRestClientException' with message 'Notifications are disabled for this application.' in /home/www/ Stack trace: #0 /home/www/ FacebookRestClient->call_method ('facebook.notifi...', Array) #1 /home/www/ FacebookRestClient->notifications_send(Array, '/home/www/ on line 2403"

Tragic love, indeed.

When I want to know what the hell is this "I love you" application, the only working link leads to Facebook discussion page with "I love you" and "This is spam" messages, all from people I don't know.

Facebook is fast becoming the new MySpace, with people "adding", "tagging", "making friends" and "subscribing to apps" only in order to have some sense of achievement from the fact that they have the most firends/apps/feeds. Soon, all of this will be automated a everyone will become everyone's friend automatically, without having to ever visit Internet. And there will be worldwide peace.

Certainly there are interesting apps and interesting uses of Facebook. Unfortunately, they are being buried under enormous heaps of digital waste and thinly veiled spam. I hope I won't have to completely delete my profile (as I did on MySpace) but meanwhile, I am disabling all my Facebook e-mail notifications. Because my friends know how to contact me and make me part of their activities.


Anonymous said...

"Sometimes I know that person but - and this is the important bit - this doesn't mean the person is my friend." So very, very true. Luckily not that many people know me and so not that many people try to be my facebook friends, but still I've had to turn down a couple of people I remotely know, too. What did they think about it, I'm not sure.

As for the "I love you" application - I gather that it somehow sent some of those messages more or less on its own, without the people explicitly clicking on "Send 'I love you' to all my friends" or something like that.


Case said...

I never really understood the desire to send everyone you ever met, even for a few minutes ten years ago, friend requests in every social networking system you use. Why would I ever want to do that? So, I often ignore or deny such requests unless I really know who the person is and want him/her to be my friend (or at least 'friend' in the online sense of the word, which IS often kinda different from the real meaning).
Then again, that's probably why I don't get any "I love you"'s ;)

Přebral said...

Facebook still displays you in my recommended friends list, but I never tried to add you. Such a good, honorable guy I am :-)

When I came to Facebook (because some of my real friends use it as their primary communication platform) I tried to add only real friends. But people began to add me as their friend even if I know them only remotely and I do not like turning them down, so I usually add them if I know, who they are (at least if I can remeber their icon on :-). This has turned my Facebook "friends" into a list of contacts, just as you noticed, and I do not consider it to be of a greater value.

Part of the problem may be related to different understanding of friendship in Czech and English cultural context - and modern shift of meaning of this word. I suppose, that the word has a wider area to cover in English; may be used for a close friend, for someone I know informally or just know a bit better ("známý" would be used in Czech) or for someone I sleep with (Czech also uses word "přítel", but it seems to include a bit of a formal touch...).

It would be also possible to brag about decline of deep friendships in modern society, but I have never been too much into this intellectual loathing, so it is probably the best time to end this comment :-)

tlamiczka said...

Prebal: you're right, I have this problem too - I often get "friend request" from people I barely know and I'm not sure what to do with it. I don't want to ofend someone by rejecting his request but I also don't want to have my profile totally unpersonal, full of people I don't really know (everyone have Jan Kaplicky as a friend now, even I have him o list, but do I know him enough to call him even contact? No.)

This social networked is becoming something strange. Maybe if there would be two ranks? Contact and friend? Something like inner social web and wide social web in the same application

Moirain said...

I am one of those who sent you "I love you" but I don´t know how it happened. I had to be some automatical system because also one other person on the list din´t know about it.

Jan Vaněk jr. said...

Orkut at least used to allow setting different degrees of "friendliness" for individual contacts, however this was visible only to the user, not the public, and done in a rather useless and unusable way. And of course, LinkedIn sidesteps this by having just "contacts" on the the-more-the-better principle... (And tlamiczka, Facebook has gone a long way to replace friending celebrities with declaring yourself their fan, not to mention "personalizing" your profile by joining groups. Orkut used to have fans as well, but again done upside-down - you could only be a fan of your friend, when the real-life situation is just the other way round.)

I quite agree with what everybody said. OTOH, I can well imagine how displaying a kind of caste levels for one's acquaintances could cause even more agonies and bitching than the simple binary accept-or-not. "I thought we were soulmates, and you call it just drinking buddies?" I guess with just two levels, it could be acceptable, just barely.

Moirain (and FF), the Official Facebook Petition: To ban the inviting of friends on Applications has over a million members...

Anonymous said...

Chápu to tak, že nebudeš můj friend :(

Anonymous said...

You are right, it should be called "contacts". Most facebook users (myself included) understand it this way and act accordingly. Once you get used to the distorted meaning of the word, there's nothing wrong with it.

The drawback is that the bigger my friends list gets, the less I want to post anything on Facebook. There isn't much I would like to share with such a large crowd of different people from differet social groups.

Anonymous said...

E-mail notifications... v Nastavení se dají jednoduše zrušit :-)

Anonymous said...

The e-mail notifications I turned off just about a week after setting up an fb-account. Later, the more my acquaintances' list grew, I realised many of these people would send me important messages over fb rather than using a proper e-mail and one does not need to have a degree in logics that I missed these messages because FB did not sent me notifications like "TZ has sent you a message... Follow the link below to read it". Later I got a message that due to an error facebook reset all my notifications' settings so (suspicious and nearly mad) I had to log on and undergo the painful process of deselecting all notifications again (there was not any option to disallow all notificatios).

Later in frenzy I deleted my account permanently. Believe me or not, I feel less stressed than at those days when reading my fb-main page constantly being spammed with Friends for Sale application's announcements ;-)

So c'mon guys, let's forget about social networking and let's better make some love instead ;-)