Sometimes, it’s More Like Facelessbook

Do you ever get "friended" on Facebook by someone you’ve never met? By someone you’ve never, ever heard of?

I’ll get an alert from Facebook stating that "Smedly Q. Armbrister would like to friend me." Huh? Who the hell is Smedly Q. Armbrister, and why does he want to be my friend? 

I’ve received quite a few friend requests from perfect strangers like Smedly. These people not only want to connect with me but, in doing so, want to connect me with their friends, who also happen to be perfect strangers. Great. Just what I need, virtual friendships with people I don’t know and don’t want to know. Facebook

These friend requests are always accompanied by photos of the strangers. Some are happily sailing in their boat. Others are completing a 10k race. Then, there’s the woman holding a cat in her arms. That one always freaks me out a bit. Call me anti-social, but I’m just not into sharing Kodak moments with people I don’t know.

Could you imagine this happening in the "real" world? A woman carrying a cat and stroking its fur walks up to you and says, "Hi, I’m Sally G. Renquist and I’d like to be your friend." Oh baby, get out of my way, because I’m going to be setting a new world record for the 100-meter dash.

So, why do we practice behavior in the digital world that we’d never, ever consider doing in the real one? I’m sure it’s all about networking. But, networking first requires an introduction of some sort. One doesn’t network by walking up to a complete stranger and saying, "Hi, let’s be friends. Can you help me get a job?"

Facebook, LinkedIn and their ilk are pretty cool ways to connect, re-connect and network with people you know. But, I’m just not connecting without a prior introduction. It’s kind of like John McCain’s refusal to meet with the leaders of rogue nations without conditions.

So, here’s a quick piece of advice to all the Janes, Sallys, Dicks and Toms that I don’t know. Save us both some time and friend someone you actually know.

5 thoughts on “Sometimes, it’s More Like Facelessbook

  1. I like the Faceoff concept Kyra. Maybe I’ll create a Faceoff section on my Facebook page for all the people I don’t know who’ve friended me. That way, they can meet other people who have no clue who they are.

  2. It is an interesting thing to consider. I was at a conference yesterday listening to Eric Schwartzman talk about social media.
    I think you have to decide if you want to be involved personally or privately and set your accounts up accordinlgy. I suppose if it is for business, you are out there and are vulnerable. Popularity gets the vote. You are popular if you are good at what you do and are open to sharing all of that knowledge.
    Something funny I want to share. I have a friend who accidentally keeps calling Face Book “MyFace”. Interestingly, the name works! Then I thought it would be funny to have a “FaceOff” page. This might work well for you to keep those pests away.

  3. Hey Steve,
    These questions of personal etiquette in relation to social networking sites have been on my mind for awhile. These sites raise all sorts of questions, i.e. when does a relationship end? A social network affiliation makes contacts ongoing in ways that wouldn’t naturally happen, which can be both great (not losing touch) and awkward (generally losing touch with people but still knowing what their wedding photos look like, their kids’ names, etc.)
    Or, take this scenario, which happened to me awhile back: a guy I knew (as an acquaintance, not really a friend) in elementary school friends me, and I accept, even though I really don’t know much about him these days. Then, I get an invitation from his boyfriend, who I have never met and whose only connection is dating I guy I went to school with back in 4th/5th grade or so. I turned it down, and I think it made them mad, supposing I was homophobic. So, sure you can ignore, but then it forces you to make an arbitrary choice you wouldn’t otherwise have to consider. An ignore for lack of closeness on your part might mean something different, perhaps even something ugly or hurtful, from someone else’s eyes.
    I wrote more about these issues over at the MIT C3 blog here.