What is a friend?By Fiona Lucas | Oct 23, 12 08:34 AM
It really is important that you think about who you friend and who you don’t on Facebook, just as you do offline.
What is a friend? According to the Oxford dictionary . “A person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.”
“A friend is someone who likes you” (written in 1958 by Joan Walsh Anglund) was a book I had as a child, and which I adored. In this day and age it takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to facebook and “likes”!
Just to compare friendship of old and new:
Now that example above is real ... seriously Colon? I pause, as I make a politically incorrect joke – it is a fairly s#@t name. Obviously I blocked him. We have no mutual friends, he had no profile picture and there was no information on his profile that I could connect with – so I had no interest in messaging him to ask more, which is of course an option.
I also don’t view Facebook as a dating service, and it may be pure spam. In his favour - a message was sent, rather than just a friend request, which is a little better.
It may seem like a silly statement, but it really is important that we think about who we friend and who we don’t on Facebook, just as you do offline ... seriously are you really comfortable with waking up with hundreds of “virtual” strangers in your bed?
Good advice is to mimic your offline behaviour online (well it may depend on your profession). One rarely becomes best friends with someone the first time you meet – it takes time; yet so many times in the online environment all those “natural selection” processes seem to go out the window.
According to leading UK anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the average person has 150 friends - with an inner core of around five close friends, 15 fairly close friends and then family, before moving outwards to lesser known people. We are of course speaking on a personal level here. On Facebook the average is 234 friends per person and then you have those with extended friendships reaching up to 5000. So seriously – how many of these people could you really count on – how many are business contacts? There is no problem with having such contacts, but then you need to be mindful of what you are sharing online, and then manage those online “friendships” appropriately.
So what is the right social etiquette when friending online? Well for me I don’t just try and barge through the door – I always take the time to send a private message along with my request. It is one Facebook change that I didn’t like – when they removed the automatic message box which used to come with a friend request, now it is a bit messy, because you need to send a private message separately and then send the request. But you MUST send a message, otherwise you will likely come across as someone who is a stalker, trying to sell something or both!
If you have never actually met the person who is trying to friend you, or that you want to friend – you need to think about how you would approach them if you were meeting them in person. You would introduce yourself wouldn’t you? So make sure you do just that – by sending a private message first. But what if the person has disabled private messages I hear you cry? Well then perhaps they have already told you that they don’t want to receive unsolicited friendship requests purely through doing that. Personally I would rather have the message and then choose politely to decline, than not have any information.
If you have a business page or a public profile page on Facebook, it may be appropriate to suggest to some people that they head over and join your business community because you like to keep your Facebook private. That being said, if you do use your Facebook profile for business as well as private connections, there are ways to manage the different categories of friends. Which brings me to the topic of lists - not shoe shopping lists (sigh), but friend lists.
One way of managing your friends is to put them into relevant lists . You can sort and categorise everyone; they might be called Work Colleagues, Family, Besties, Acquaintances – they might be in more than one list. It doesn’t matter - however you want to categorise them, if you are putting them in lists there is one key rule – you have to use the list.
Get into the habit when you are posting on facebook to click down in that little box with the globe (or the little people silhouettes) and choose who you are sending the comment to, or who you want to exclude from seeing it. There is no point in having lists if you don’t actually use them!
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Fiona is the Founder of iRespectOnline