Thursday, May 03, 2007

Snubbed on Facebook

So, I did the deed and made a facebook profile. Not all that active, I log in once in a while to accept requests, play around a little to see how it works, and invite a few people I know to be my friends.

And then one of them doesn't approve me.

Who'd have thought.

Not that it matters, and of course it's no reason to accept everybody, but still, it's not like I invite all kind of people I never met. It felt weird to see others in the same group of people linked, and me left out. The visual lack of a connection was a stark declaration, a public rejection.

I suspect a large part of the power of facebook lies here, in the power to include and exclude, and make both the links and the lack obvious to the insiders, but still unvoiced, unspoken. Luckily I am no longer 10 years old and desperately unhappy when somebody doesn't pick me, or write in my book of memories. But it makes me wonder... what will I do the day somebody I am really uncomfortable about want to be my friend?

There is no way to aknowledge a link which is less than friendly, no such thing as "casual aquaintance" or "neighbour I never spoke to the 20 years we lived close" or "yeah, I know who that is, but that's all." The neutral, unemotional, that which is less than friendship but still more than strangers - there is no category for that. And that leaves an odd sensation of unease, as the world is split into friends and not-friends. It is just too simple.

15 comments:

Loren said...

I had a similar experience with a group of bloggers who invited other bloggers to join their "in" group.

I was apparently "accepted into the group" but my name was never listed on the group list and several bloggers didn't include my address on their site, though I included all the group members on my blog.

As an ex-high school teacher I was well beyond worrying about whether everyone liked me or not, but it did create an awkward situation for me.

There's something about these "virtual friendships" that makes them impossible to fit into past experience in order to know how to react to such snubs.

Torill said...

Each new version of social software present us with new variations of almost-familiar behaviour. And so we recognize the actions, but we have not developed any coping strategies, or etiquette. I think a lot of the fear of the net and also a lot of the nasty behaviour - or what is interpreted as nasty behaviour - comes from this lack of established social rules.

Hans P. Fosseng said...

I have been curious on how Facebook's reject invitation function works, because I've actually rejected a couple of friend and group invitations. If you add a person as your friend and that person rejects you, what kind of message do you get? My fear is that it's something like «this guy doesn't want to be your friend so he rejected your request»...

Torill said...

Why don't you invite me, and I'll reject you, and then you'll know :)

Torill said...

You have been rejected - Hans P - if you look back in, can you let us know what it said? Or if it said anything at all?

Hans P. Fosseng said...

Ah, OK, this is interesting... The thing is, nothing has happened that I'm able to see within my Facebook universe. I haven't got any message or information about you rejecting my «add to friends» invitation. That was really excactly what I was hoping for:-)

Torill said...

I wonder if it's possible to regret? Now I have to check if I can invite you...

Lars said...

Thanks for doing that experiment so I didn't have to :-)
I think it's a language/cultural problem that comes up as Facebook expands beyond its US college origins. "Friend" could mean "someone I know" to some people, or "someone I would die for" to others.
Luckily, there's the "poke" feature, intentionally left blank by the designers. I tend to use that for first contact with people I have little contact with outside the Facebook. Some respond with friend invites, some with return pokes, some not at all, which gives at least a semblance of nuance.

Torill said...

That's what experiments are for, Lars! And yes, it might be the college/high-school mentality in the friend networks which makes them so absolute. When you're young things tend to be more black and white. Later relationships change, deepen, cool down, and become more nuanced. Interesting thought that.

And I have to admit I haven't use the poke-function. Although I did invite Hans P. Fosseng, and he's now my friend. Doing experiments together qualify for Facebook friend status, I think!

Svend Andreas Horgen said...

Very interesting! I think that most people don´t reflect on the downsides. I just posted some reflections on "Facebook and privacy" http://gjemmesiden.blogspot.com/2007/05/facebook-og-personvern.html (in norwegian).

Geir Helge said...

Poke funksjonen er ikke helt uten nytte.

Facebook vennskap kan modereres. Ved å klikke "Limited profile" boksen, får vedkommende kun tilgang til den mest grunnleggende informasjonen om deg. Iallefall i henhold til Facebook-utviklerenes synspunkt ang. hva som er ok og ikke for fremmede å kunne lese om deg.

Ved å bruke poke funskjonen inviterer du noen til å utveksle nettop ett slikt "Limited" vennskap. Om en blir poket tilbake kan en gå inn på profilen til vedkommende og vice versa.

Jeg har ikke fått testet dette med "Limited profile" i praksis da min profil er svært beskjeden og denne funksjonen tvilsomt vil ha noen effekt for min del, men den eksisterer. :)

Geir Helge said...

Ouch. I was switching between MSN and reading blogs. And by the time I decided to start writing a response to this blog, all the norwegian-ish names here somehow made it perfectly reasonable for me to write the response in norwegian.. And so, it happened. :)

The message (and some additional ranting) is as follows:

The poke function does have a rather practical function if you should spot that recognizable face but you're unsure of the name or vice versa.

A friendship on Facebook can be moderated by using the "Limited Profile" feature checkbox. If this is enabled someone on your list of friends, this individual will only be presented by the most basic information available. Ofcourse, the definition of "basic information" is according to the Facebook-develpoers view on what is okay and what's not okay for these "Limited" friends of yours to read.

By using the poke function, you invite the poked to exchange a temporary limited friendship over a short period of time. If you get poked back, the access to this users information is granted and vice versa, not before.

In any case; these functions do exist, but they are rather sloppy solutions to a problem which people who does not obsess about privacy should be exposing themselves to so openly in the first place.

If I may share my observations;

Facebook is deemed to cause more psychological harm than being a useful tool for many. Especially amongst the younger and less "emotionally developed" generations who's already being bombarded by the media about what to wear, where to be and how to be when doing what you're told while you wear.....and now they're provided with a platform to measure this up against each other with stats (friends, wallposts, gifts, yadayada), rants and photographs. And I suppose that a quite nice chunk of the adult percentage is emotionally unstable to actually bother investing time and effort on cooking up conspiracy theories based on what they are exposed to from a quick visit to Facebook.

I say this because I have friends, friends talk, and I do notice that much of what is talked about is found on the "Recent activities" page after logging in, and I have heard about people having issues which roots in can be backtracked to what people saw or read on Facebook.

Could this be one of the main spawning-pool of rumors due to all the pictures which people non-stop keep posting of each other from parties (as we all know that stuff you normally don't want posted on the net often happen at these gatherings), vacations, public events and so forth? I've observed profiles where people bring their cameras to a relaxed evening and a movie with friends, then go back home and post them on Facebook with the title "Movie with friends".

Facebook is without a doubt a good tool when used properly. But the cons outweigh the pros for many as far as I can gather from my observations.

I must say that this urge people have towards documenting their private aswell as social life for all their closest friends to see is amusing. :D

Torill said...

Geir Helge - it's ok, if you want to reply in Norwegian I can read that, and so can many of my readers.

As for your thoughts about facebook: don't overthink too much. Yes, there are vulnerable people out there. Yes, somebody put too much into something like facebook. Yes, it can be a good tool or a fun toy (right now I keep fighting my friends in a ruthless vampire war). The same can be said about just about every other coomunication device.

Taking pictures of your friends and showing them to your friends - we would go into town and cram as many as possible into an automat and take pictures and then keep them as a memory of that time when we were just hangin' in the streets of Ålesund, and we'd look at them and laugh and share with other friends. A totally unimportant day with some people who meant a lot to us right then. Now we have other tools to use for the same kind of documenting and sharing. Sure, if you're falling down drunk on that picture, I guess you don't want your friends to know. At least facebook keeps it among friends and their friends, pretty much like the physical albums did.

Before we engage in full-faced fear of a new technology and how it may hurt those "less fortunate", we should just consider if we haven't seen this before, and if we don't already have a social pattern for dealing with the problems it may cause. Technology may change, but human beings are pretty predictable.

Shmuel said...

Sorry to jump into the middle.
I could not help but note that all your ruminations were in first person. How about putting ourselves in the place of the rejected friend? Could classes of friendship be a more gentle way to treat this problem (i.e. you aren't my close friend but you aren't a stranger, etc)

stephen marth said...

The facebook term "friend" is not really the best term to use. LinkedIn uses the term "connection", which is much more generic way of denoting thise who follow you. By believing that you are adding a friend who may be more of an acquaintance or simply a relative, you mislead yourself into thinking everyone who accepts is truly a friend. Adding a friend is more if an invitation to follow you. If that party declines the opportunity it is their loss.