Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Rules of Friending on Facebook

I learned a few weeks back that I had some security preference on Facebook checked so that my name didn't come up when people searched for it. After I lost my job, I figured I should probably make myself available through all appropriate channels for the new media-savvy, and opened myself up to the teaming refuse of the Internet.

But what I hoped would turn into a networking opportunity has become a forced march down memory lane. Right now, I'm debating what to do with the friend requests waiting to be processed. One of them is from a girl who threatened to fight me in seventh grade after I called her a slut. Another is from a girl who barely gave me the time of day in high school. The third is from some distant cousin who reports all my comings and goings on MySpace to the maternal grandmother with whom I have little contact.

I feel like there's no set etiquette for how to proceed here. After an informal poll of my friends, many subscribe to the belief that if they didn't like someone a decade or two ago, they shouldn't give them access to information. But what if my classmates have changed as much in the ensuing years as I have? Shouldn't I let the petty shit that I said when I was young and foolish go?

And family is an especially fraught battle. I friended a distant relative on my father's side, but my grandmother had already passed along my phone number because we live in the same part of Somerville. I added my brother because he pretty much knows what's going on with me, but probably wouldn't add my mother if she joined, if only to spare her the shame of seeing the large percentage of my pictures which feature me holding some form of alcohol.

One of my friends also believes this is a good plan, and explained to her mother that she wouldn't be friending her. Another cohort encouraged her mother to join in order to foster hobbies other than "obsessing over her grandchildren and drinking."

So here are the rules as I see them: If you're not comfortable adding someone, ignore their request. If they keep bugging you and you don't mind burning that particular bridge, explain politely that you'd rather not add them. If it becomes an issue where you might not want to piss the person off, add them with limited access to your information. That way the family reunion isn't too awkward, either from hurt feelings or when that aggressive relative starts talking about that picture of you singing "Copacabana" at Sissy K's Monday night karaoke.

Not that I have any pictures like that, mind you.


Nick said...

As far as rules go, I would also include a friendly reminder of how you know the person when initiating a friend request. I get requests from folks in my industry, and even though I can't remember meeting them, I'm too afraid to hit ignore because I don't want to screw up future job prospects.

But it could be worse I guess.

Anonymous said...

I don't connect to my sister or dad on FB, but I do connect to my brother and sister-in-law and to four cousins. I don't feel completely safe having my dad on my FB page, and I need some distance from my sister because there's a lot of overlap in our social circles and I need some space to breathe.

Plaxo has turned out to be a great solution to this. To get around FB issues, I connect to my sister and dad on Plaxo instead, which I and just about everyone else on Plaxo largely only use as a rolodex for contact info, my social wall on Plaxo has never been used. My sister has three accounts on FB, but I noticed that her page on Plaxo was much more complete with her contact info.

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