Recently, I discovered some “dirty truths” about Facebook that I found somewhat disturbing, even though the situation can probably be explained with personal and cultural differences. Nevertheless, I find the practice offensive.
In a nutshell, it’s become more and more popular for people to create “levels” or “castes” of Facebook friends who they give different “access rights” to content on their FB pages.
If you are not familiar with Facebook lists, here is a quick tutorial. This feature allows you to create lists of “friends” and to then limit their access to your Facebook content through settings in the profile area.
Quite some time back, Jeremiah Owyang wrote a block about what to do if your boss wants to be friends with you on FB. There seemed to be a moral dilemma to tell your boss if you’d like to keep your private life separate, that is, you don’t want him to be friends with you on FB. Coming from German decent (we are very direct), I found this hard to relate to. My believe is that if I can’t tell my boss that I don’t want to share my private life with him, I should probably be looking for a new gig.
I am personally confused by the need to segment your “friends”. Obviously, Facebook is a semi-public tool. For one, very few people trust Facebook security and (should have) consequently have made peace with the possibility that the information they share might end up on Google one day. Second, if you are not limiting your FB page access to close family or your closest circle of friends (most people I know don’t), you are already customizing your postings to sanitize them. Let’s face it FB is a conversation with many people at the same time, and some reputation management is required. If you want a private conversation, pick up the phone or meet in person.
My FB strategy subscribes to the Malcom Gladwell philosophy, that it’s good to not just have “A” and “B” contacts but also stay in touch with “C” and “D” contacts. For example, once you set out to find a new job, your “C” and “D” contacts are much more likely to provide new leads, than your “A” and “B” contacts who you are constantly in close connections with already. You also find out a lot of great information from people in your wider network, stuff you’d not learn from your closest friends. It’s a big world out there and fun to get access to other people’s worlds/lives. Voyeurism is part of FB, be honest.
My rules are simple: I have to know and like you (this means we’ve at least spoken, ideally met but not mandatory); I consider you as a person with enough common sense to not write something embarrassing or stupid about me; I assume you are interested in what I share on FB and I would like to know more about you.
Obviously, my philosophy is not shared by everybody and I was almost shocked to recently learn that it is very common to segment your friends on Facebook into different lists. Well, it happened to me and I take offense. If I ask somebody to “friend” me, I have absolutely no problem in getting no response at all (“Not Now”) or to get an honest response that says “FB is very personal to me, how about we connect on LI (or not even that)”. What I find offensive is to get accepted as a friend – but not really – to end up on a FB wall that I can’t write on. It means, I accepted you as a friend but I did not really want to but did not know how to tell you that.