Hell If I Know, Facebook, or Care

Dear Facebook:

You’re behaving ridiculously. Stop it.

Stop asking me whether I know someone outside of Facebook when I accept a friend request. I am never going to answer that question. And damned well stop asking everyone else as well unless and until you make it absolutely obvious that you’re going to use that information to punish people if their new friends say, “No.”

For one thing, I don’t know which Facebook people I’ve interacted with elsewhere. You may not have noticed, in your zeal to get everyone to give you their legal names, but this is the internet. I interact with people with ‘nyms older than Facebook whose legal names I don’t know. I’ve only figured out other people’s “real” names because a Facebook friend request clicked with a cryptic email address that I saw by chance once upon a time.

Beyond that, while my number of Facebook friends is nowhere near the limit of 5,000, I still act as a minor social hub. I blog. I share articles on Twitter. I go to conferences and talk with an awful lot of people. Do I remember their names? I’m terrible with names. I remember faces, on those occasions when the people I interact with show theirs, but avatars almost never look like passport photos.

I don’t always know who I know from elsewhere, and as long as you’re threatening the ability of people I’ve already chosen to accept as Facebook friends to send new friend requests, I’m not going to risk guessing wrong. Nor am I going to answer only when I can answer in the affirmative. You didn’t tell me how you were using the information before. I’m not going to trust that you won’t suddenly start treating the occasional non-answer as equivalent to “No.” I’m just not going to give you any information to work on.

Also, the very question is absurd. Facebook, you might want to sit down, because I have to tell you something. You…are social media.

This means that people interact using you. When they do this, they sometimes–you’re still sitting down, right?–make friends. These friends sometimes want to interact without having to use the medium of a mutual friend’s Facebook wall. Or all those affiliation pages and groups that you set up to get people to spend more time on your service. You know, people find common interests and build pleasant feelings towards one another and enjoy interacting. Next thing you know, they’re friends.

Then you threaten them for formally recognizing the very relationship you facilitated.

Facebook, you’ve done some seriously antisocial things in your time, but this is the first time you’ve gone so far as to make me question whether you know what business you’re in. Yeah, yeah. Sure we’re a bunch of eyes and clicking fingers you want to put in proximity to advertisements you hope are alluring. However, the way you get us there is by making it possible to interact with the people we want to interact with enough to keep us clicking around and looking at the page.

While I’m sure there’s some problem with friend requests you think this heavy-handedness fixes, asking this question of people who have confirmed friendships throws up roadblocks in the very basics of your business model. That’s farcical. It’s silly. It’s an insult to the basic idea of friendship.

Stop it already.

Hell If I Know, Facebook, or Care

19 thoughts on “Hell If I Know, Facebook, or Care

  1. 1

    In a pyramid or ponzi scheme, eventually the potential market is saturated, and the financial returns for those who started it start dwindling. And those at lower tiers who were suckered in and expected to profit from it get angry because they’re not getting what was promised.

    Facebook’s IPO was a fraud. Suckerberg…I mean, Zuckerberg is desperate to maintain the new membership numbers and please the advertisers and shareholders demanding dividends from the overpriced shares they bought. Sooner or later, the house of cards will collapse and revenues will cease, because, like Bernie Madoff, facebook doesn’t actually make or sell anything. Myspace will probably outlive facebook.

  2. 2

    If what they really mean is “do you know that this is a real person outside of Facebook” then that is what they should be asking. I have a network full of stand-up comedians, and no way have I met all of them in person – most of them are friends of friends. But I know that they are real people performing at real venues every week.

    FB is certainly not going to help their member numbers continue to grow by penalising people for meeting people virtually, when as Stephanie says, it’s their very own platform that is one of the major places allowing them to encounter each other and appreciate continued interaction together.

  3. 3

    I’ve never had a Facebook account. I spotted their business model early: “Tell us EVERYTHING about your life, so we can aggregate and sell this information to spammers, grifters and snoops.” But I know people who are on Facebook, and they have probably mentioned me, so Face book has a “shadow profile” on me, a huckster-oriented version of my FBI file (I know that that exists, because I once held a security clearance).

    Thank whatever gods there be for Firefox and Adblock Plus. And for anyone out there who might be in the online ad industry: When a popup oozes past Adblock, the ONLY thing I do is look for the button to make it go away. I make a point of ignoring the content, unless it’s one of those especially obnoxious popups that that won’t go away until you follow its link. For those, I carefully note the entity advertised, adding it to my Brown List.

  4. 6

    The problem is that Facebook is kinda the only one of its kind, and others that have tried have failed.

    The theory of Facebook is brilliant: to have a way for friends to keep i touch no matter where in the world they are; in principle, I fucking love Facebook.

    The problem is, no such site should ever have become what Facebook’s become.

    I’m one of the people who joined when Facebook was still basically new. It was still technically a college thing, even though I was in high school, and you still had to be invited to use it. I knew someone who was in college at the time and they invited me because they wanted to connect with me. Back then, Facebook was fucking awesome.

    But it’s become a monster, fed by corporate greed and a lack of any ethics.

    The problem is, if Facebook dies, I fear that the hole concept of social media will go with it. We won’t see something like it for a long while…

    I could be wrong, of course, and I hope I am, because I want to be a part of a social site that connects me with friends and people anywhere in the world so we can keep in touch.

    Facebook is pretty much all there is right now. What could replace it if it goes?

  5. 7

    In almost all cases I do know people from outside of Facebook – certainly in terms of movement atheism, principally from FTB or scienceblogs, but from other blogs and forums as well. So I invariably answer ‘Yes’ and never ‘No’.

    But yes, it’s one of a number of anti-social gotchas Facebook tries to pull, and so I tend to go directly against the type of social engineering assumption behind the gimmick. I wish they wouldn’t put gimmicks on it.

  6. 10

    That makes about the 7th reason I’ve never joined Facebook. I’ve been tempted on occasion, if only for a way to let more people know where I am and how to find my blog, but the temptation is always brief whereas their (FB’s) flaws just keep coming and coming and coming….

  7. 11

    Stever: if you know what regexes are, karma blocker is a fully customisable ad blocker that comes out of the box blocking most things. You have to tweak its rules manually so that it doesn’t get too agressive sometimes, but it’s a rare occasion that that happens.

  8. Oob

    Facebook didn’t invent anything. Myspace already existed before it. Heck, Geocities existed before it. Nothing ever kept you from keeping in touch with people before.

    What’s the problem with Facebook? It gets a little deeper than how the company is abusing customers, the problem is that no ONE company should basically “own” this concept of “social media”. Make profiles an internet standard, one that web sites can PLUG INTO and TRADE, but never solely OWN. There, problem fixed.

  9. 13

    I’m terrible with names. I remember faces, on those occasions when the people I interact with show theirs, but avatars almost never look like passport photos.

    I’ll remember to wear my hat when I see your next presentation.

  10. 14

    “…this is the first time you’ve gone so far as to make me question whether you know what business you’re in.”

    They know exactly what business they’re in – Data.

  11. 15

    It’s amazing to me that after all these years of existence, FB still doesn’t understand its users and doesn’t seem to care what users want to use FB for.

  12. 16

    @Al Dente
    You’re making the mistake of assuming that the users are the customers – they aren’t. Advertisers and those who buy your personal info are the customers, and the customer’s always right.

  13. 18

    @15 voidhawk

    Absolutely right. Facebook’s customers are the advertisers and other various companies that buy the data they have on their users. They treat their users for what they are – data generators. If you use Facebook, you willingly supply them with your information, which you allow them to sell. Facebook makes money off of you. They will only treat you in a way that will ensure you continue to use their “services.”

  14. 19

    I always thought they asked if you know a new FB friend in real life so that they can better customize “people you may know.”

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