Saturday, January 31, 2009

I've been assimilated.

Resistance is indeed futile. I'm not talking about the Borg, but something close to it: Facebook.

I tried to resist, but everybody else around me had joined - my mother, my brother, my wife, my relatives - that I simply could no longer be the odd person out. A few days ago I succumbed to the pressure and created my own profile (which of course, you can't fully access unless you have a Facebook account of your own and send me a friend request). The friend requests began rolling in - from my family, Lori's family, friends and neighbors - and I sent out a few requests of my own. I immediately connected with a handful of high school friends that I hadn't spoken to our heard from in at least fifteen years.

Of course, now that I've joined up, I have some questions. For example, do I really need to get an e-mail notification every time somebody makes a comment on my "wall" or "tags" me in photo? How often should I change my status or comment on a friend's wall so that I don't seem aloof or disinterested? What if I get a friend request from somebody I don't know or don't particularly like? What do I do if I decide I have too many friends? Or what if somebody I just made friends with decides to "un-friend" me? These last two questions appear to be a heady issue for the Facebook community, especially in the wake of the "Whopper Sacrifice" campaign:

Facebook, which now has more than 150 million members, has clearly been built on the back of the culture of oversharing. Many members broadcast the mundane details of their lives through a “status update” feature, which lets people — nay, encourages them — to describe the contents of their lunch or the virulence of their bronchitis.

Even in this environment, however, deleting friends does not generate a notification of any sort, leaving members to discover they’ve been unfriended only when they find they no longer have access to someone’s profile. It can be a jarring experience, especially considering that the person who dumped you at some point either requested you as a friend or accepted your request (on Facebook, that is how friends are made). But members understand that such selective discretion is critical to the social-networking ecosystem.
So far, all the people on my "friends" list are people that I know and indeed consider to be friends (even if I haven't spoken them in fifteen years). But I've only been part of this community for three days, and at some point I'm sure I'll have to deal with situations like the ones described above. Online relationships, like their real-world counterparts, can be tricky.

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