Wanna “Not” Be My Friend?

by Sachin Balagopalan on December 26, 2008 · 1 comment

How do you decide if you don’t want to be somebody’s friend online friend anymore? If this sounds a tad juvenile or teenage’ish, think twice before you make up your mind :) . Apparently this WSJ article published on Christmas eve has resulted in a few folks feeling slightly angst to put it mildly. I first saw it a couple of days ago and my friend Jim Gleason also posted a link to it on Facebook this morning with this comment Some of you won’t see that I’ve posted this…” , which I thought was just hilarious. The “hot” topic these days in the wide world of online social networking is not how to make friends but rather how to dump “unfriend” them without hurting their feelings.

WSJ: Unfriending online “friends” is emerging as the latest offense in the world of social networking. Sites such as Facebook and MySpace allow people to build personal profiles with photos, videos and up-to-the-minute updates about their lives, then to share them with select users, or “friends.” The process has even turned the word “friend” into a verb, as in, “so-and-so just friended me on Facebook.” Users agonize over whom to friend (your mom? your ex-boyfriend? your boss?), and worry about whether their friend requests will be accepted or ignored, lingering in cyberspace in what some dub “friend purgatory.”

I can’t believe this is the foremost thing on our minds given the fact that we have some real problems out there - recession, layoffs, war, etc - and some people are worried about clicking the purge button on some social networking service? So what if you run into someone in the elevator who you just purged a few days ago from Facebook or MySpace? There could be only three reasons, IMO, why you would even take the time to purge somebody off your network …

  • You’re really pissed off at them offline that you can’t stand to see them pop up online every time they update their status or profile. Well, then it’s not a problem if you run into them offline - you probably won’t have a conversation anyway!
  • If someone all of a sudden starts using profanity that offends you or gets involved in some illegal activities and you want no part of it. If it’s that bad others will complain as well and the service will get rid of their profiles before you know it.
  • You were one of the early adopters of these social networking services and you accepted every friend request regardless if you knew the person or not and now you’re overwhelmed with all the “noise”. My answer to that is go ahead and delete them if you feel they are not adding any value to you socially - they won’t care a bit and these are usually people who have hundreds of thousand friends/followers. They won’t even notice that you’re gone!

Other than that I don’t see why one should waste time trying to figure out who to cut out, even if you’ve lost touch with them. BTW there is a reason why some of us prefer Twitter and Friendfeed because you can follow and see what people are up to without the pressure of reciprocating. A lot has to do with how these social networking services are designed. Facebook and MySpace are designed in such a way that it makes it easy for one to participate. It’s hard not to respond or comment to a Facebook status or a photo/video link and if you have a ton of friends it could get overwhelming I suppose. Twitter and Friendfeed on the other had are designed to “follow” rather than participate. So you get a steady stream of info from your followers and “followees” and it’s not considered rude if you ignore their tweets or messages. Michael Arrington ponders “The Meaning of Friendship” and talks about “buckets” …

Social networks are taking two approaches to dealing with this. MySpace and Facebook (and those like them) have added different buckets to throw friends into. You can share more or less information with different groups of friends. So if you aren’t really friends with someone but don’t want to insult their friend request, you can throw them into the unwashed masses bucket (or whatever you want to call it).

Yep! That’s right - Throw them into the “unwashed masses” bucket. No one will ever know! :)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Brian Roche 12.31.08 at 9:14 pm

Love this post Sash! Awesome …

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