Why I’m not accepting your friend request, version 2.0

I first wrote this post on my public Facebook page in May of 2010 as a response to friend requests from readers, publicists and other people whom I hadn’t actually met. Since then, things have changed: Facebook’s privacy implications have gotten trickier, Plaxo and MySpace vanished from relevance, LinkedIn is more useful, a follower-etiquette question has come up on Twitter, and Google+ has brought its own social-networking issues.

So here’s an update on what leads me to accept a friend request, decline it, or passive-aggressively pretend I never saw it.

Facebook: Last year, my rule was that we had to have met and communicated, even if only by phone or e-mail, before I’d accept your friend request. But as Facebook’s constant tinkering increases the default exposure on each account–and as features like the upcoming timeline interface make it easier to mine friends’ histories for dirt–the liability of an ill-chosen Facebook connection has increased.

Meanwhile, the increasing noisiness of Facebook’s site has reduced the marginal value of each new friend in the News Feed. So I’m pickier about friend requests and have unfriended people with whom I only had one good chat and then never heard from on the site. (Go ahead and unfriend me if you wish. I don’t take offense if people disregard my own Facebook entreaties: It remains an optional service, notwithstanding what its management might say.)

I have yet to enable Facebook’s new subscription option, even though it’s intended for people like me with some level of public identity. My Facebook page already has a large, growing audience, so unless I were to fold that venture back into my profile I’d have yet another online outlet to fill with witty morsels.

Google+: I like how Google’s latest venture into social networking doesn’t require reciprocity–if you want to add me to one of your circles, go right ahead! And because so much of my G+ audience has been defined by my occupational social graph, G+ seems to be evolving as a forum to discuss things I cover. But that doesn’t mean I’ll necessarily “circle you back”… and no, I don’t know I even like that bit of Googlespeak.

Twitter: The same principle applies to Twitter. I follow far fewer people than follow me because I find Twitter works best as a news network, not a sort of friend radio, and I don’t need its signal-to-noise ratio any lower. So if you’re not sharing useful tidbits about technology, journalism or a few other subjects that fascinate me, I’m probably not going to follow you–although I’ll certainly notice your tweet if you mention me in it. But please do follow me anyway!

Foursquare: Seriously, what is it with strangers who want to know when I hit the grocery store? I assure you, I am not that interesting (aside from the gratuitous check-ins I did from the Kennedy Space Center during NASA Tweetups this summer). My rule here hasn’t changed: I have to know where you live or your cell phone number.

I’ve also realized that I don’t need to publicize my Foursquare activity beyond the service to get its primary benefits: useful tips about places I visit, plus the occasional discount and the cheap thrill of claiming a mayorship. So I disconnected my Twitter account; I may link my Facebook account, since that has some privacy limits while my Twitter presence has none.

LinkedIn: Shockingly enough, leaving my job at the Post led me to put serious time into my LinkedIn page. (Better yet, I’ve since received substantive business inquiries through the site, one of which has already put money in my bank account.) I remain fairly liberal in my acceptance of LI invitations, but I still appreciate knowing where they’re coming from–for instance, because we’ve met before or you work in a related field. In other words, please spend 30 seconds to write something more personal in your request than the default “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” You all do know that’s text you can edit before sending the request–right?

Now that I’ve exposed my social-media snobbery, how do you make these decisions?

5 thoughts on “Why I’m not accepting your friend request, version 2.0

  1. This all makes sense to me. I have a policy to no longer accept “friend requests” from businesses, bands, and organizations who set up a personal profile page, because I don’t want people I do not know personally to have access to my personal info, especially with all the apps out there that gain access to friend info. Setting up personal profiles for anything other than individuals is also a clear violation of Facebook TOS, and I’m surprised so many still continue to do this.
    I’d prefer to Like their page.

  2. I don’t use any social sites…..IMHO there is nothing in my life so interesting that it needs a moment by moment narrative. Clearly, many others feel the need. Funny stuff, I recently received a high school alumni newletter. Updates on lives, jobs all that jazz. A friend showed it to her daughter who said…”this is all Facebook stuff, why don’t you all post it there?”…sign of the times.

  3. I don’t usually accept friend requests from people I don’t know, or perhaps more importantly, that I don’t have a current relationship with. On the other side of the coin, if I am a friend of someone and find that I cannot abide by their actions/reactions to stuff–mostly political–I unfriend them. Life is too short to waste one’s time being bent out of shape that way.

  4. So, you’re saying there IS something to LinkedIn beyond spam? I signed up years ago and have NEVER figured out how to get unsnarled from its tentacles. About once a month, some friend joins and LI seems to snag their address book and include me in probable forged messages that all read the same as you paint here. When I still used Eudora, I just used a filter and trashed ’em. Now that I’ve upgraded Windows and Eudora no longer works, I’m banished to IN-box hell with hundreds of new emails a day that are NOT sorted nicely into folders that only open with friends’ mail. But still no way to free myself from LinkedIn.

  5. I was doing Social Networking /long/ before people called it that. A crew of us started on Slashdot back in the late 90’s. As Slashdot got too big we moved to Kuro5hin.org. When K5 got overrun by trolls, and Rusty declined to do anything about it (it’s a wretched hive of homophobia and penis jokes today, sigh) we moved to Hulver.com. Now we’re on Google Plus. Mostly the same crew. People who’ve known each other, online, for over a decade.

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