When you ask someone, particularly a work contact, to be your “friend” on Facebook — why? Are you interested in what they have to say? Are you interested in sharing your opinions and family photos with them? Both? Are you trying to broaden out your connections, for sourcing/recruiting purposes? Or, neither — you’re just sort of collecting them in your domain of friends and contacts, including them in a record, a database, an organizational tool of who you know?
I’ve thought about similar issues for a long time. For example, see:
And I’m still curious about it.
A few months ago, there was a controversial discussion on Facebook on the page of a woman I barely know, but whose friend request I had agreed to. A couple of the participants, but mainly the leader, a tad bit like sheep, had taken the original topic (Helen Thomas and free speech) and proceeded to repeat all sorts of horrifying falsehoods they obviously had read or heard on their various opinion sites they read. Perhaps I should have kept quiet, but I didn’t, trying to correct her with some facts. Her next post was a public announcement that any further comments by me would be blocked, and I was no longer her “friend.” (Some people emailed me offline, letting me know they found it funny I was “unfriended” for trying to express myself during a conversation about free speech.)
Anyhow, I was curious as to why the original poster “friended” me in the first place. Did she want to know more about me? Did she want me to hear her opinions, but not express mine?
Another time, a recruiting leader I met through ERE “befriended” me on Facebook. It was nice of her, I like her, think she is an impressive person and all, but it led me to finding out some personal details about her life. That’s fine, but I wondered what that was all about. Did she have the same level of interest in me posting such things? Should I be posting really personal things? I’m open, and would be happy to share anything with her — but barely knowing her, it would not have occurred to me to do so. Did she realize I hadn’t really thought about her personal life one way or another prior to the whole Facebook friend thing?
Another recruiter who wouldn’t call me back for a long period of time sent me a Facebook request to be her friend. I thought that was really funny — I guess she wanted to be friends on Facebook but not in contact in real life — and others I told found it really funny too. But, if you think of Facebook not as a record of your friends, but more as LinkedIn, as a contact list, not a friends list — well, it’s not so odd, and it makes sense.
Of course there is the issue of privacy settings. You can befriend someone, but limit what you tell them. But, as I’ve said before (re: fertility) people don’t seem to use the settings to their fullest.
I’m interested in your thoughts.