#315 Friended out the blue: A new obligation to act
Tuesday 25th March, 2008
After falling out, my older sister and I are now not talking. She started seeing a new guy who has now friend requested me on Facebook; what’s the best response?
Facebook makes connecting and staying in touch easy; both on the eye (users are unlikely to put up a bad profile picture) and in terms of time-saving. Collaboration and network shares aside, ‘friending’ can be an anxious experience. On the one hand it is You the ‘friend’ requestee who has put themselves out there to make a connection, especially precarious if the two parties have yet to establish a stable ‘relationship’ status. On the other had as a recipient of such a request, and again when the relationship status is hanging in the balance, you must respond appropriately should yourself appear rude, needy, or completely uninformed about how to negotiate a connected presence.
In this particular instance the request has come from an ‘unknown’ individual, who credentials have only just been identified by your sister. Family feud aside, this will blow over. Unless you post something abhorrent on each others walls and take up your news and minifeeds throwing SuperPoke punches.
1. Play safe, ‘friend’ and set to limited profile. So they are ‘in’ your network, just not ‘in’ your friendship.
2. Send a short and sweet message, BEFORE accepting or declining such a request that queries how you know each other.
3. Ignore, drop kick into the outbox.
4. Message your sister with a ‘hey guess what?’ scenario.
5. Delete Facebook account. Obviously not practical, but that would call his bluff non?
Ultimately this is about the subtle art of negotiation. Your sister may not want you to friend her latest companion. OR, this request could have been instigated in order to generate a response from you in order to open the lines of communication. Ipso-facto, its not about the friend request at all, but as a means to get in touch. Underhand and random certainly, but not sneaky of malicious.
Another scenario that does connect to the creep factor is that this particular individual, Mr X, is deliberately attempting to ingratiate himself within your sisters networks both online and offline. And You represent a portal to connections and potential information.
Personally I would stay out of another’s relationships, sister or no sister. I would however, take the opportunity to raise this with my sibling, to open up and gain the upper hand (and with an air of superiority) completely such down such potentially creepy and manipulative techniques of Mr X. Win, win all round. Both you and your sister are talking again, Mr X is the topic of conversation (another motivation by him no doubt) and you all avoid having to justify your actions, or rather non-actions on Facebook.
The increased person-to-person contact is an important dimension of social networking and potential SNSs opportutnities. The involvement of other people, the potential for harassment and obligation to participate represent just some of the daily dilemmas one must navigate (seamlessly). This is made more complex when patterns of use co-join formal and informal networks and then distribute shared information across all networks. Understanding the circumstance of where You, those around you and those connected to those around you are all networked to one another facilitates the integration of successful Facebook ‘friending’ and experiences. If in doubt, always leave the losers out.
A final thought: If you do friend Mr X and he turns out to be less than a desirable companion, You will have access to his networks, walls and ‘friends’… Oh the potential power….