(anti-)social networking

Reader F. B. asks:

What is the proper etiquette for deleting or defriending people on sites like Facebook?

Dear F. B.:


Own your social network. Do it. Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Facebook etiquette is certainly de rigeur these days. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you’re either a genius or a moron. Keeping or discarding friends on Facebook is, of course, entirely up to your preference. I have a friend who keeps her friends list under 200. I have other friends who add people seemingly at random, and the Facebook friends these folks have are in the thousands. Which direction you go depends on a few factors you’re going to have to consider.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What am I using Facebook for?

If you are trying to use Facebook as a publicity tool, the more friends, the merrier. If you’re trying to allow certain friends to keep in touch with you, you may hold your friend invites a bit closer to the chest. It is a social networking site, so you may want to have lots of friends to keep your options open for, say, that someday run at a Senate seat. Ever since Facebook became basically public (i.e. not just open to certain elite colleges), I have personally been getting lots of friend requests from people in Turkey that I have never met. (Why Turkey? The world may never know.) If you were using Facebook to market yourself, you’d say yes to those Turkish people, whether you knew them or not. You might weed them out later when their Farmville status updates got out of hand.

Why am I keeping the friends I have?

If you’re sentimental, you probably want the friends you have on Facebook to be people you’ve a) actually me and b) actually want to keep in contact with. If someone has offended you in some way, it is a much classier move to defriend them (or block them) than to spam their page with hate notes. (Public fighting is redonkulous. Really, keep it in your diary, kiddos.) While I encourage political, religious, or other debate, at the end of the day, the points of view of your friend list are not required to be diverse. If you can’t stand that someone on your list doesn’t get the difference between “your” and “you’re”, it is your right to remove them, and no one can tell you otherwise. And again, I bring up the Farmville nonsense. You can remove Farmville from your news feed, but at some point you kind of need to make a stand and let people know they have a serious problem requiring a Facebook defriendage intervention. I’m just sayin’.

What do I have to hide?

This is an idea more people need to take into consideration when they’re friending people. While the social networking can be a great asset, it can also be a great detriment, particularly in small networks like, oh, I dunno, Albuquerque. If your privacy settings are such that a “friend of a friend” can see that tagged photo of you taking body shots off some hooker in Tijuana, there’s a pretty good chance a future employer could get wind of those pics, too. Some of us just don’t post those pictures in the first place… But in any case, be careful who you allow in if you are wont to put your entire life on Facebook.

Whose feelings do I care about?

In spite of the fact that it’s all just a bunch of ones and zeroes, people get really upset over being defriended on Facebook. As a friend of mine once said, “It ain’t official ’til it’s Facebook official.” While she was referencing relationship statuses, it’s also true of defriending. If you remove someone from your Facebook list, you’re telling them you don’t want to be friends in real life. Nine out of 10 times, they’ll care. This can actually be rather invigorating and freeing for you, but that doesn’t mean it may not cause you strife or get you a “reputation”. Of course, “Facebook bitch” isn’t such a bad thing to be, if you can handle the label. And it may be a notch up from “Facebook whore”. Maybe.

How am I going to defriend them?

Obviously it’s easy to press the little button that says “remove from friends” at the bottom of their Facebook profile. What’s harder is having an explanation for it later. People may confront you. Keep in mind that you do not owe them an explanation at all. Hopefully defriending them isn’t too serious of a problem; maybe you only met them once and they don’t even remember you. You might not get any extremely angry text messages or IMs. But you still might. In this situation, I would say your best option is to block their access to you on all fronts. Remove them from your digital life entirely.

Now, defriending someone on Myspace … oh, who cares.


2 Responses to “(anti-)social networking”

  1. 1 VMM
    June 16, 2010 at 10:00 am

    I really need to take down those Tijuana pics…

  2. 2 Kristin
    June 16, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I think defriending has gotten harder since the friend suggestions thing was added. I like to limit my list to people I am actually friends with (or was once), but I often get friended by people I knew high school who, while I did not dislike them, were not actually friends. I found it easier to ignore these requests when the person would either have to actively search for me again or scroll down their friend list to see if I was there. Now, they can be doing something else entirely and have my face pop up as “someone you might know.” I think it makes it more likely someone will be offended when facebook throws the rejection in their face like that. At the very least, it makes me glad I am not currently in high school – we can perhaps expect people to react to these things like adults and not make big petty issues of them . . . hopefully.

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