Your friendeds are not my friendeds.

January 5, 2010

Once again, if you haven’t read William Deresiewicz’ article “Faux Friendship,” I highly recommend it.

I recall my first year of grad school being crazy enough without the complications of electronic social networking. As if I didn’t have enough reasons to feel old in my early twenties, on my first day I had a student abbreviate a discussion with me into another language (“Hey. Can we convo? LOL. Sorry, I like to abbrev.”), and soon after I felt the outward pressure of dealing with virtual friends—hereafter referred to as “friendeds.” After much prodding from my peers, I finally opted to give Facebook a shot, but only if I could assure that I could have all the privacy I wanted, and more. I resolved to only “friend” people that I had actual face-to-face interactions with, but my interactions on Facebook were limited until I discovered my personal Holy Grail: ultra-paranoid privacy settings. Thanks to the setting which removed my searchability on Facebook, I was free to happily enjoy all Facebook had to offer from the confines of my virtual cloaking device.

As the years have gone by, however, the ever-widening user base has had some undesirable results. While Facebook features (Facebook chat, applications, video, etc.) have consistently expanded, I’ve always had my private little wall that prevented “that one creepy guy from the coffee shop who I really never want to talk to” or “that obnoxious girl from my sophomore physics class,” or “my high school graduating class” from attempting to “friend” me. Sure, you can always ignore the friend requests, but can’t they just not know I’m there? Regardless, I’m proud to say that I’m still app-free and I have resisted the urge to upload video or engage in real-time chat. I also was completely invisible to all but those I actually wanted to communicate with. What’s nice, is that I have had that choice.

You can run, but you can't hide.

You can run, but you can't hide. At least not anymore.

As of December 10th, I can still opt out of search results, but I have no means to opt out of being “friended” by  “friends of friends” if they happen to see my picture or name in a group or wall post. “But they’re your friends’ friends,” Facebook says. “Why wouldn’t you want them to be your friend?” Well, if you’ve got one Facebook acquaintance that’s “friended” all of Northwest Ohio—and we all have got at least one who has—then that opens you up to all of Northwest Ohio as a “friend of a friend.” My real friends’ friends are not mine, so why on Earth would the Grand High Facebook council assume that I want to have the friendeds of my friendeds be able to see me? Facebook friendeds of friendeds are exponentially further away from being actual friends. Sure, there might be some that are, but does that make it worth opening me up to all of the friends of a guy a met once at a conference in New York?

The painful truth is that social networks like Facebook and MySpace have the power to dictate social privacy trends. What makes Facebook different from myspace is its respect of privacy, which has steadily eroded with every new app. Every “feature” which enables users to share more establishes a new trend which eventually becomes a standard. Not only do these new features presuppose that people want to share as much as possible, they actually encourage people to make public things that they would have never considered to display in the past. As much as I hypocritically condemn the self-important web 2.0, whether or not you want to share pictures of yourself doing a keg-stand in a unitard isn’t my business. However, you make it my business by giving all of your pro-unitard-kegstand friends access to me.

I notice that every time I type “friend,” it means less and less until the word is almost meaningless. I wonder if having 1,283 “friends” on Facebook has the same effect on actual friendship?

“This information is name, profile picture, gender, current city, networks, friend list, and Pages. The overwhelming majority of people who use Facebook already make most or all of this information available to everyone. We’ve found that most people who do limit access just want to avoid being found in searches or prevent contact from strangers.”
-Facebook Blog


One Response to “Your friendeds are not my friendeds.”

  1. […] As much as I hate to admit it, I’ve been choking on this post for almost three weeks, and I’ve been sitting on the material for almost three months. It all started when I got a new job and on my third day attended a book reading by literary critic Bill Deresiewicz. I was thrilled to attend, as he’s an author that I’d praised in the past. […]

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