The Complicated World of Facebook “Friends”

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Have you ever taken a look at your social network?

No, I don’t mean Facebook or Twitter. Instead, I mean your actual “real life” social network of family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and others who are part of your life in some way.

Well before approving friend requests with the click of a button, we were mentally and emotionally organizing people into social networks. And we never even needed virtual lists to do it.

All of that seems to have changed for at least Generation Y and younger – a group of individuals who seem to care more about learning about friends through online interactions as compared to social interactions.

It’s interesting to look at Facebook – for instance – to see how we’ve categorized folks. I’ll openly admit to having a group called “Purgatory.” While the name was just for fun, the folks in the group are people who I honestly have no desire to really speak with or are co-workers I felt compelled to accept as friends, but much rather would not have them see pictures of my animals or social outings I attend. In short, they’re strictly business.

It isn’t that I post risque photos or questionable material, it’s that I have a different rapport with those folks. So if I regularly do not talk to some colleagues or work-related folks about my cat or my love of Nintendo, I’d rather them not learn those things about me.

As a reporter, I already do not accept friend requests from sources or readers on my personal page (Sorry!). Instead, I created a public page detailing my journalism and social media life.

No doubt that there is much discussion about Facebook’s security settings – and those discussions heat up every time a new report comes out about yet another change to the already convoluted privacy settings.

But really, if you look at your Facebook account and apply that to your physical life, you’re constantly met with a myriad of privacy concerns and people you’re forced to interact with.

I, at times, do feel pressured into accepting a friend request from, say, somebody I volunteer with through the American Cancer Society Relay For Life. And those folks are entered into a list as well where not all content is readily available for them to view.

One question I’m asked often is if it’s acceptable to add a date as a friend on Facebook. At what point do you add somebody – anybody – to your virtual social network?

It’s a tough question since Facebook seems to be the stamp of approval for any relationship. If you’re on your second, third or fourth date, do you add them as a friend? What about a colleague you just met? Tough call.

You want to get to know them better, but adding them to Facebook instantly gives them a free pass to search practically your entire life – especially with Facebook’s Timeline feature. They’ll know when you moved, what you had for dinner on vacation on 2020, what all of your recent exes looked like and possibly even be able to view their profiles, too.

It’s creepy, alarming and satisfying all at the same time to have all of this information at your fingertips. But none of us admit to seeking out every piece of information on our friends and past partners, right?

And as easy as it is to add someone to your virtual social network, it’s just as easy to un-friend someone. But, just like adding someone, un-friending somebody on Facebook almost puts a “VOID” stamp on the friendship.

We’ve all been there – or at least I have – when you search for a friend and discover your relationship has been put to the pasture. You wonder what happened – maybe they were trimming the list to close friends and family? Maybe they saw a post they didn’t like? Or maybe they accidentally hit the unfriend button? It can happen, right?

Whatever their reason, seeing you’ve been unfriended is equivalent to drifting apart in real life.

It seems to the the final answer for a friendship, right?

I’m at the point with one friend where the un-friend option might soon be used. This friend is an ex-girlfriend to one of my best friends. Each of them has moved on with their lives, but mutual virtual friendships remain. With any hope, I’ll never see her in person again, but do I un-friend her on Facebook?

On one hand, it’s good to keep tabs. But on the other hand, do I really care?

If for nothing else, Facebook is a great way to see your social circles and networks come to life and mingle if given the chance. I’m amazed to view profiles of friends and randomly see similar mutual friends … and I always wonder, “How do they know each other?”

What Facebook has created isn’t new. It has, however, become a new tool for us to manage our social connections and – for better or worse – get to know those who are part of our lives.

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Sarah is the Senior Editor of a site that empowers women to take chances, build confidence and find love by incorporating flirting into their daily routines. A scifi junky, addicted to tattoos and Joyce Carol Oates, she is currently relocating to Seattle.
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