The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

24 July 2011

To friend or not to friend

Isn't Google useful?  Ask it anything, and Google has an answer for you.  Not always an accurate answer, or one relevant to your question, but it is reassuringly consistent with offering answers.  For example, searching for information on the condor, the first 12 results (of "about 55,700,000 results") offers tidbits about Condor Airlines, Condor Hotlines, Condor Petroleum, the condor project - having something to do with HTC - a flight simulation game, Condor Ferries, a post production network (now with offices in South Africa and the Ukraine!), and, yes, a Wikipedia entry for the vulture itself.

Search results used to be called 'hits'.  I think hit is an apt term because sometimes you feel like you've been hit over the head by the sheer volume of information someone over at Google thought would be useful to you.

This post isn't about Google, however.  I brought it up because I want to bend your ear about that social networking megalith, Facebook. I was curious about how many people use the thing, and found numbers in the hundreds of millions. Yikes!

I'm not a Facebook hater.  Well, not entirely.  It has its conveniences and benefits, and can even be fun. (It used to be a whole lot funner before all the 'improvements', but that's not the purpose of this post either.) I like that fact that it brought an old friend from school back into my life. I appreciate  the way it allows multiple friends and family members to take part in the same conversation. Maybe I didn't need to know that one person bought an aquarium online at three in the morning, but the silver lining of that information overload is the next time I see that person, I'll know to ask about the new fish endeavour. 

I recently had an interesting exchange with someone I don't know on the wall of a mutual friend.  Something he said caught my attention and I was curious about his background, so I clicked over to his page to see if he shared any info. I just about lost my eyeballs with the force of my disbelief at seeing how many 'friends' he had. 

Hold onto your eyeballs, cause this might shock you: he was a mere handful away from seventeen hundred.  How does your brain not leak out of your head every single day with the effort required to remember that many names? I know many people have a different Facebook philosophy from my own. They like to be friends with everyone, including anyone who may have posted a comment one time on another friend's wall. I feel guilty when I see names of people in my friends list I haven't 'talked' to in a while. I cannot imagine the amount of antacid I would need to handle not talking to 170 people, let alone 1,700! I used to be friends with a United supporter in Wales I met on the Red Devils fan page, but when I saw that little message that tells you who has a birthday coming up and it took me a very long time to remember who he was, I jettisoned him. Unfriendly of me, wasn't it? A friend of a friend sent a friend request, and when I took some time to think about it, he told me it wasn't a big deal, it was only Facebook friendship. Exactly, I thought.  It's only Facebook friendship, so why bother?

There are six requests sitting in my notifications right now, waiting for me to decide to friend or not to friend.  If these were people I actually felt friendly about I wouldn't have hesitated.  Likewise, if they were people I didn't know at all I wouldn't hesitate to press 'ignore'. These are people I have a tenuous link with: work colleague from years ago, family relation I haven't seen in donkey's years, someone I used to know through the church I used to attend.  

What's the protocol?  Am I obliged to accept their Facebook friendship? If I ignore their request, do I send them a note as well? (Saying what? Thanks, honoured and all that.... but, no thanks?)  What's your approach to the great question: to friend or not to friend?  Do you friend everyone? Do you communicate regularly with everyone on your friend list?  Are there people on your list you would unfriend if you could find a charitable way to do it?

Maybe Google has the answers.

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