Who are Your Friends on Facebook?

I don’t know about you, but I have gotten a recent flood of friend requests on Facebook. Most of them are not from family members or from folks that I truly know well. They are from “Mutual Friends“. You know what I’m talking about. You look at the number listed to the right of their request to see how many mutual friends you have and that helps you decide whether to accept them or not. Right?

When I first started using Facebook back in 2008 I thought I would use it to keep in touch with family and close friends and possibly even those folks that I had met at conferences and edtech events. But that has now grown and I find myself looking at status updates from people I don’t know at all. What happened?

The other day I logged in to update my status and check out what my FB friends were up to when I got an IM (instant message) from someone I really didn’t know.


I didn’t respond.

“when u will reply me? never?”

I know what we teach our students and our children about not replying to people that we don’t know, but I was ALREADY friends with this person. Something had convinced me to accept his friend request. When I clicked on his profile I saw only 4 common friends and the face of someone I had never met in person. I also saw that his status updates were not in English. Why was I FB friends with him?

“sometimes i see u
try to talk to u
but u never replied me
i really wonder why?
just a human i m too
not a monster”

What would you do at this point?

I was so frustrated with myself because if I didn’t want to IM with this person, I should have never accepted his friend request, yet I felt a sense of guilt for not replying.

“i think i saw u
from nice place for example
about education
about projects
i m a teacher and an engineer
and a coordinator of projects”

Feeling guilty and curious, I asked what he wanted to chat about.

“i thought
i would talk
or share somehting
but as i see u dont care
if i disturbed u
i m really sorry

I replied that he was not disturbing me, but that I had to log off and go walk my dog. (This was true as my dog had been barking for a few minutes and obviously needed to go out.)

  • Where would the conversation have gone?
  • How do you make decisions as to who you are friends with on Facebook?
  • How SHOULD you make decisions as to who you are friends with on Facebook?
  • Do you practice what you preach in terms of internet safety?

These are questions I have been asking myself for a few days. What are your answers?

29 thoughts on “Who are Your Friends on Facebook?

  1. Just as we do in a face to face conversation, many of us respond to a friend who introduces us to someone else. In the virtual world people respond to a new acquaintance when introduced by a friend, or a friend of a friend. When I became a webhead, check out http://www.vancestevens.com/papers/evonline2002/webheads.htm, I was introduced to a worldwide network of friends. These are amazing times. Being a webhead changed my thinking. When I accept a friend on Facebook, I look to see which friends I have in common, like you did, then I look at their walls posts and make a determination. Sometimes I have to unfriend, oh well, I do that in face to face too. Good conversation starter.

  2. Hate to say this but I’m with you on this–it was borderline creepy. While I have many of my PLN as friends in FB, I don’t feel I’m in a “chat” relationship with them. IMHO friends in this kind of network must cultivate the friendship a little deeper before they can just “chat” with me. This can be done by engaging in comments on my status updates–comments that either agree or share. And actually they will have to do that before they can begin pushing back on my thoughts. Actually there are not all that many in my fb group that I would engage in a chat with. If this “friend” was insulted, then I wold simply drop them–they obviously don’t know me as well as they think they do. I don’t think you should worry over this one–just drop the person. Sounds like they are envisioning a fantasy that includes your friendship. Creeps me out just thinking about it. Sweetie, you don’t need “friends” like that–ones who try to guilt you into a conversation. Gosh, bless his heart if has to resort to those tactics. Is there such a thing as FB brow beating or FB guilt tripping? Lose him. I’m serious.

    1. Thanks for your comments Cathy.
      I don’t necessarily feel guilty about this one person. I’m over that.
      I feel that I may have accepted friend requests without giving them enough thought.
      I see many folks have 700, 800 and even 900 friends. I wonder how they deal with it. Perhaps they are always offline for chat.

  3. Hey Lisa. As a woman who has been online since 1988, I can tell you I’ve gathered a few hints about security.

    1. Lie about your birth date. For security reasons, I falsify this information. On some sites I actually boost my age into Baby Boomer or senior levels in order to get the flirtatious pings and salacious comments to plummet.

    2. Use privacy level settings of each site to their fullest degree. I don’t get too many chat requests like the one you did because I place strangers in groups that have no access to my online status. FB’s privacy levels are quite specific, and you can place people in groups you set up and assign those groups many different levels of access to you. Try this with your tenuous or stranger contacts.

    3. Write like a man, especially in chat. I set expectations and lay boundaries with my writing style. Before I press “send,” I edit out the feminine language or references. Verbs dominate my sentences and directness dominates my tone. Short sentences, strong opinions, no emoticons. If a stranger contacts me via chat in FB, I immediately say “Can I help you?”, directly addressing the “threat.” Ignoring it only provokes the “why do u ignore me” aggressive behavior. After I say “Can I help you” I say “I don’t chat on FB” or “I am working.” Then I ignore the remainder of IM’s, if any come. If I must, I will block a person.

    It seems like many times women endure harassment online because we are trying to be polite. I don’t bother with trying to please strangers. I am civil and cold at first (i.e. “all business”). If this doesn’t send the message, then I ignore, then I block.

    Good article. Thanks for bringing up this great subject.

    1. Hi Christine – thanks for your comments.
      Isn’t it a shame that we feel we can’t be TOO nice.

      I still give this guy the benefit of the doubt – but I adhere to several of your precautions.

      I appreciate you sharing your suggestions.

  4. AJ says:

    I just the other day went though a group and people purge. I deleted a lot of people who I thought were very interesting but have decided to keep Facebook to those I know personally.

    Back in June I spent some time thinking about who I wanted in which network. Who I follow (or follow back) on Twitter is different than Facebook which is even more different than LinkedIn. I blogged about that at http://sorryafk.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/when-is-a-friend-a-friend/

    This is not easy, but it is important – we need to come to terms with this so we can make sure we are helping young people make wise decisions about this.

    1. Thanks for the link AJ.
      I’m wondering how many people weed out their networks like that.

      I saw my sister-in-law reduce her FB friends from 1000 to about a 100 6 months ago. But now it’s back in the 800s. What was she trying to accomplish? I’m not friends with her on FB, so I may never know.

  5. Hi Lisa,

    I recall Ewan McIntosh describing his “one year rule”, when it comes to who to friend.

    He says (if I recall correctly) that he doesn’t friend anyone that he hasn’t shared a beverage with in a year. That’s his barometer for whether or not someone has earned the right to be a FB friend.

    That’s my general rule of thumb. I accept friend requests from folks I have shared time with in the last year. Given that my use of Facebook is purely personal, I feel no obligation to accept friend requests from folks connecting professionally. I am “out there” in so many other avenues for connecton that I am not denying them anything other than access to my kids.


    1. Good point Chris.
      Ewan’s theory is a reasonable one.
      Between Twitter, 4Square, Linkedin and Tripit I think I could pretty much figure out what folks are up to if I wanted to.

      But check your friends, his and mine and see if any of us are putting this theory into practice. (I’m just saying.)

      Thanks, as always, for joining in the conversation here.

  6. Lisa – I have recently unfriended many “old friends” (who were really just high school classmates I did not communicate even when I was in high school). Now , I have pretty much set up my Facebook page to communicate with close friends and educators who are in my PLN.

    I find it much more useful now.

    1. Hi Pat,
      What do you mean by more useful? I’m curious as to what you are looking to get out of Facebook. Are you looking for Edtech info? Or just to keep the lines of communication open with those in your PLN.

      I hear you about the high school friends. I kind of like to live in the now.


      1. AJ says:

        I was skeptical about high school friends as well, especially since I had a very small circle of close friends back then. My original thought was, I wasn’t friends with you then why do I want to be now. However, since then, a few of those people from high school have contributed to my postings and I’ve even gotten closer to one person who is a soccer fan. So there is something to be said for planting seeds in our social garden.

  7. I try to use Facebook with people I know personally. For some, it’s friends that I go way back with. For others, it’s a few I’ve met at conferences and feel some sort of friendship with. That doesn’t happen with everyone I meet. When I first started with FB, I wanted to keep it completely separate from Twitter, the main two social networks I use. However, I found that there were some professional colleagues I wanted to add and have done that. I’m still hesitant to add “strangers” on FB.

    1. Thanks for sharing Chad.
      I think many of us started out that way. I was also hesitant to add people that I didn’t know on Facebook but then realized that I might be offending them. I wish there was a “decline, but thanks” button versus an “ignore” one, but I guess I just need to get over it.

  8. Hi Mrs. Thumann
    I’m a student at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, Al. I have also been receiving an abundance of friend request from people that not only have I never seen before, but also they don’t speak English. I personally don’t accept any request from people that I don’t recognize and that don’t have a profile picture. I feel that if you don’t have a profile picture, that means you have something to hide. One man even said that he only requested me because we had mutual friends, but just because you are a friend of a mutual friend doesn’t mean that we should be friends on facebook.

  9. Lisa – I have recently unfriended many “old friends” (who were really just high school classmates I did not communicate even when I was in high school). Now , I have pretty much set up my Facebook page to communicate with close friends and educators who are in my PLN. I find it much more useful now.

    1. Thanks for sharing Jenifer. I am now sitting on a bunch of pending friend requests as even though I have 50-60 friends in common with them, I’m not sure I want to share family information with them. I’m still not settled on how I feel about the whole thing.

      Thanks for adding to the conversation.

  10. AJ says:

    Lisa, just want to be sure you know this – thanks to Facebook’s wonderful bevy of new policies, even if you don’t accept a friend request, unless you decline it and then remove it from your requests page, that person asking for the friend request can still see your updates, etc…

  11. AJ says:

    Because the people at Facebook SUCK when it comes to privacy or doing what the user wants. They have just gotten it WRONG so many times, but still the masses follow.

    Did you also know that this “your account protection status is…” is a ruse also? Its just Facebook’s way of getting more private information from us so they can sell it.

    The one thing people need to keep in mind, Facebook is not in this for us, at all, they are in this to make gobs and gobs of money, and since we don’t pay for things, they have to get something from us of value, and that something is information, which they can then sell.

  12. malbell says:

    Thanks for the conversation Malcolm. I have also added a number of fellow PLN members to Facebook but have had to decline quite a few people who I do not know at all. I was interested to read AJ’s ideas on the reasons for Facebook’s privacy policy. He has a point about their knowledge of a lot of personal details which they are then able to sell. I recently started to learn the Harmonica and was amazed at how fast the “Harmonica” online lessons and other material appeared.

    1. OK, so I gave it some thought and created a list with pretty strict privacy settings. When I think about it, I won’t really communicate with the people on this list via Facebook – we are just on each others Friends lists.

      Thanks for your input Malcolm and AJ!

  13. Good topic Lisa. I’ve struggled with how to use Facebook in my blended world of family, personal friends, professional friends, and PLN/ mutual acquaintances. For a while I didn’t allow any posting on my wall or my posts by anyone because I would get the random posts, comments, from people I didn’t know. I was also seeing all kinds of random updates from people I didn’t know. I was even, at times, getting requests for tech help on my wall.

    The problem with locking down my wall was that it prevented my family and friends from interacting with me (which kind of defeated the purpose of being on Facebook). So I now use the option for “hide all posts from this person” for people that I haven’t personally interacted with. I still keep my wall locked down, but I now allow my family and friends to comment on my posts. This provides a nice balanced Facebook experience for me. The other thing I did this summer that cut down on the number of friend requests from people I don’t know was to link my blog to my blog’s Facebook Fan Page. Now when people click through from my blog to Facebook they’re directed to the Fan Page instead of my personal page.

    1. Thanks for your input Richard – I can see how you might get those types of requests for help. I also feel that I want to share more information about my children as more and more of my close friends and family begin using Facebook, so I am hesitant about those that I have never met face-to-face from my edtech networks.

      I had not considered adding a fan page that I could use professionally. I had decided not to have a personal vs professional profile, but I like the concept of the Fan page to link to for work.

      One more thing…I am guessing that the majority of friend requests I get come from the “People You May Know” section. I rarely send out friend requests, but when I do, it’s usually from there.

      1. Lisa,

        I’m at the same place you are. I don’t have kids but my sister, step-sister, and close friends do and I’m sometimes hesitant to comment on the pictures they post from Christmas, birthdays, etc. because I don’t want all of my “friends” to see that I commented and go looking. (I realize this could be rectified by my family and friends changing their privacy settings but they don’t change them).

        Like you, it seems that 90% of the requests I get come from the “people you may know” section.


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