Too Many Friends?
I have 97 Facebook friends.
This is the result of a recent culling from 112. From what I understand (which may be nothing, but that’s an existential tangent of its own), this is a small amount of Facebook friends to have. I’ve always been confused by the amount of friends people have on Facebook, but reading Pearson’s article The Performance of Identity on Online Social Networks allowed me to form a hypothesis:
People have many Facebook friends because the playfulness and flexibility in social relationships social networking allows means that a person can friend without any level of commitment.
Unlike offline interactions, friending someone on Facebook doesn’t carry with it the expectation of a particular level of interaction. You can friend someone you’ve seen once and never talk to them again, and this is not considered a breach of etiquette. (Whereas if you indicated that you would like to be friends with someone offline and then never spoke to or saw them again it would be considered weird, to put it politely.) This allows for a category of ‘maybe-friend’: People who may not be part of your social network, but you think might belong there in the future.
Basically, Facebook is the person equivalent of citation-management software: You can clip anything (anyone) that is relevant, and then later when you’re writing a particular project (or expanding your social circle), you can pull the relevant articles (people) into a group for easy access and formatting.
One often-discussed idea in the library world is the idea of information, or content, curation. Facebook friends who are in the ‘maybe-friend’ group can be viewed as information objects rather than relationships (albeit information objects whose information is the potential for relationships), and therefore it stands to reason there’s a curation process. The interesting thing is that I don’t think people are very aware of this process. I certainly wasn’t.
My curation process for FB friending involves asking myself these questions:
- Do I know them in real life?
- Have I spoken to them more than once?
- Do I like them and want to speak to them again?
Generally, if the answer to one of these is ‘no’, I’m much less likely to friend someone. So I have very few ‘maybe-friends’, but that’s by design. Controlling who I friend is one of my ways of controlling my performance: I am more able to be myself because fewer people are invited into the house containing the glass bedroom, to extend Pearson’s analogy.
Questions for you:
I would be interested in hearing what people think about this, and in particular:
- How many Facebook friends do you have?
- What is your Facebook (or other platform) curation process?