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November 06, 2009

Facebook-Enforced Friendship

Today on the Internets

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the hugest fan of Facebook. It's not so much that I have a problem with the concept. It's a convenient way to keep in vague touch with people, and I guess to share photos, although I never actually bother to put photos up. And memo to a large segment of you people from my high school who are friending me: Do you actually remember high school? And specifically the way that you were either mean to me or didn't notice I existed? Why do you now want to be my "friend"?

ANYWAY. All that was by way of saying that I rarely actually log in to Facebook so I haven't seen this phenomenon for myself, but apparently they are doing some sort of thing in which they decide that you have certain "friends" to whom you haven't been speaking (so far as they know) and prompt you to contact them. Repeatedly and annoyingly. I have heard from THREE different people just this week that Facebook told them to talk to me. And - what?? Why??? It's certainly not as though Facebook seems to be in any danger of people not using it. What are they hoping to achieve with this "helpful" service? It just seems so ridiculously and needlessly invasive.

And yet - and yet. Two people got this message in reference to me and we just had a good laugh, because they were people with whom I communicate literally every day, via IM and e-mail and Twitter and text messages. Just not via Facebook, because I'm never on Facebook. But the third was a friend with whom I actually hadn't spoken in a while. We used to work together but have both moved on to new jobs, and both have busy schedules, and . . . well, you know. We had a flurry of e-mails a few months ago about getting together but never figured out a time. But a few days ago she sent me a "Facebook keeps telling me to talk to you" message, and I e-mailed back, and now we have plans to have dinner together, actually live and in person, next week.

But I'm still not going to talk to her on Facebook.

Edited to add: I realized when reading Rachel's comment that I somehow missed a point I was trying to make, which was that my dislike for Facebook comes less from the purpose/utility (which I'm generally fine with) and more from the actual practical usage and interface. I don't know if it's a weird mental block I have or what, but I find it extremely clunky and difficult to use. Even when I want to do things on there, I often end up frustrated.

ALSO, I should say that all of the above notwithstanding, I will be in line to see the Facebook movie on opening night, because it is written by Aaron Sorkin. That is all.

Posted by Kat at November 6, 2009 08:12 AM

I fear places like Facebook are going to devalue the term "friend." Certainly they and I have different definitions of the concept.

Posted by: sprite at November 6, 2009 09:17 AM

Haha! I've noticed this too, but I haven't contacted/been contacted by anyone in those notices. They don't really bother me. They're off to the side, out of the way.

I'm an avid facebooker. I think it's funny that you say "vaguely keep in touch" because I just created a new list for the NEW new Facebook so I only get updates from the people I choose.

Yeah, it's nice to be able to contact these long (sometimes purposefully) lost "friends" of ours. You never know when they're going to come in handy. Potential buyers of the book you're writing for NaNoWriMo for instance.

Posted by: Joey at November 6, 2009 10:51 AM

I put my facebook "friends" in air quotes, mostly. It IS fabulous for allowing me to keep in nearly constant touch with a few real friends -- some far away, one in my own town! -- but I have, what, 300 "friends" on there? Most are from high school, probably half or a third of that number, and most of the rest are people I've met in various online groups. It's kind of fun to know what Amber from the KS list is thinking about the customers in her store, and it's definitely wonderful to be able to see pictures of the kids from my due-date moms' group, since the email list pretty much died out when people started having blogs. So I don't knock Facebook too hard, and I use it a lot, but it is a bit of a time-suck, and I HATE HATE HATE the way it tells me whom to talk to. (Also, I loathe the Amway-style applications -- Come be my Farmville friend so I can have a bigger farm! Come fight in my Mafia war! ugh. I laughed, too, when it told me that you and I hadn't talked lately. Shows whawt IT knows.)

Posted by: Rachel at November 6, 2009 11:33 AM

I love that even though FB prompted the renewed contact you didn't communicate via FB.

Posted by: Michelle at November 6, 2009 12:04 PM

I find Facebook really hard to get around in and all those games!! It's like being dropped in on an elementary school. (I'm sure if I ever actually PLAYED any of them, I'd be hooked, so that's not as judgy as it sounds).

Posted by: Carrie K at November 6, 2009 05:25 PM

I've only been active on FB for three months, and I have 177 friends, most of whom I have never met IRL nor have I spoken with them. They are "friends" only because we play the same games online.

Really, the only reason I get on FB is to play FarmVille and other games. They're fun. But I can do without all the cyber-scoldings about the friends and games I'm "neglecting". Such as MyKitten™, who has probably died of starvation by now.

Posted by: Jeanne B. at November 6, 2009 10:57 PM
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