Feb 14th, 2012 by AJ Owen
A friend posted a question on Facebook today that gave me an idea for my February blog post. The topic is super timely considering today is Valentine’s Day – a day all about relationships. The inquiry was, “If you and someone do not talk for whatever reason and they do not even comment or hit the like button on your Facebook page, would u take them down?”
This question speaks to how virtual social networking can actually cause a questioning of our actual social networks. I have a few personal viewpoints I’d like to put out there because I too sometimes ponder what’s the best approach when I’m faced with a questionable friend request or I’m not sure how a comment or non-comment will be interpreted. Let me elaborate.
Yesterday, I ran into an acquaintance at the grocery store. We’d met in a professional setting months ago and really clicked. So, we agreed to add each other as Facebook friends. When we saw each other in person again it was immediately all warm smiles and hugs. She mentioned that she had seen some of my Facebook posts. I remarked, “Hey, I’ve not seen any of yours.” She admitted that after a long day working at a computer and interacting with people that sometimes she just pulls up Facebook to get a quick look at what’s going on with people around her. I get that.
As a borderline introvert/extrovert, I also find myself checking and responding to Facebook and other networks in spurts – usually when I want to feel connected to others in a fly-on-the-wall sort of way. It feels good to hear others joke, vent and share, but sometimes you don’t really want to be “seen” yourself.
Of course there are people who are online friends – without benefits – for a variety of other reasons including:
- They are really busy
- They are technologically challenged
- Their computer or other access tool is on the fritz/down
- They’ve been locked out of their account
- They have a hard time remembering their login information (used to be me)
- They’re online primarily for business networking
- They’ve added too many people so the posts from their real friends are being drowned out by the tons of posts from “stranger” friends and they’ve not yet figured out how to fix this
- They’ve added a second Facebook account that they interact with more than the account you are friended to
- They maybe friends with you, but you may not be friends with their other Facebook pals so they want to distance themselves (see their photo next to “coward” in the dictionary)
- They accepted your friend request or extended one to you to “be nice”
Let’s be real, there are some people who want to be your online friend for less than virtuous reasons. Even as adults, some people bring a playground mentality of friendship management to both face-to-face and online relationships. And there is true reason for concern here. Some people are adding you because their relationship with you is neutral, but they have a friend – they know you’d never add – who would like to spy on you. All of us who’ve ever heard about or had a catty friend, knows this is true. I’ve even overheard husbands admit that their wives have put them up to doing this.
If you’ve ever received an unexpected friend request, you may remember that it triggered a concern or two. You wonder does this person requesting a connection really want to be friends? Is it possible that in trying to be a “nice person” you might be accepting the friend request of a frenemy – someone who wants to watch you, but doesn’t really support you?
The truth is, in life we can’t focus on our haters. If a person has a deep enough grudge against you and if they are emotionally immature, they might make spying on you a part of their personal entertainment. That’s just the way it is. Simply be as careful as you can when accepting friend requests and don’t accept any you find suspect. Social networking isn’t like the Valentine’s Day party in grade school where you were expected to give EVERYONE a “be my friend” card and some candy so they wouldn’t feel left out.
But on the other hand, it’s possible that a small seedling friendship can flourish because someone who only knows you on the surface, can now get to know you more intimately through your posts. Only you can decide if it’s worth the risk in exchange for potentially expanding your circle of friends.
You don’t have to delete people who aren’t active on your page unless it bothers you or you fear there may be an underlying rift in your relationship to blame. I have several “friends” I’ve considered deleting for this reason. I have opted instead to leave an open door. People can change. However, if seeing someone’s profile picture sets your frontal lobes on fire, hide their posts or consider deleting them. It’s not worth your peace.
Before deleting an unresponsive friend you may consider calling them or sending them a direct message to their social networking account or to their personal email address, if it’s available. Some people don’t reach out to make deeper connections because they feel awkward making the first move. Simply get the conversation going by asking how they are doing. This will give you a temperature check. This also let’s them know you see them as a real friend not just a name on a list.
When I first joined Facebook, I told myself that I was going to send a personal message and leave a wall comment for every friend I’d added, so they’d know I wasn’t just adding people to increase my number of friends or to be a social spy. I wanted my friends to know that I really felt a connection to them. However, with my schedule that’s not totally happened, yet. I’ve kept my number of friends smaller than some because I do hope to do that some day.
I’m not super socially active when it comes to posts, so I accept that my rapport my not be as strong with some friends compared to others. Additionally, I’ve also run into the renegade relative or friend-of-friend or two who have left such embarrassing posts on my page that in a moment of frustration I adjusted my privacy settings in such a way, I’m sure there are people out there I’ve offended because they don’t understand why they are in a group of blocked people. I simply haven’t had time to go back and fix the settings.
Because I know these misunderstanding happen, when I run into a privacy setting that prevents my posting or comments or I don’t hear from people in a while, I just chuck it up to “people are busy living their life” or they are engaging with their social networks best way they know how at this time in their life. This puts out the fire of potential offense.
The biggest rule of thumb I’ve been following is to trust how I feel about a person overall and let that determine what I consider acceptable and unacceptable interaction online. I have some friends I don’t see for years or talk to for months at a time, but I count them as my true peeps and closest confidantes. Deep inside, you know who your real friends are. Hope that’s a helpful tip for you.