Facebook, Privacy, and Friends

I’m not quite as worried about Facebook and privacy as are many of the eminent digital celebrities who’ve been deleting their accounts. Yes, Facebook is using its success and its confusing privacy interface to bulldoze users into revealing more than they might otherwise choose, but I’m pretty cautious about what I reveal online. I think I’m content with the current status of my privacy settings.
On the other hand, even as people are howling about Facebook privacy issues, people keep asking me to friend them without giving me any reason to trust them with the information I’m keeping safe. That’s a trajectory for information-reaping and email-harvesting that has nothing to do with Facebook’s settings, and everything to do with the social conventions that have come to prevail in these interactions. I’ve set up Facebook to reveal most of my information mostly just to friends and family, but there’s no point in that restriction if I accept as friends every Sal, Dot, and Hermione who asks to be my friend, regardless of whether I know anything about them. As it is, I may be vulnerable to some subtle friend-of-friend inquisitions.
So one more time: I will not friend you if you ask and I don’t recognise your name as someone I do know and trust. If you’re a stranger to me and you still want to friend me, use the message box that Facebook offers you to explain why I should friend you. Even then I may not accept your request — nothing personal, but I don’t owe anyone that information, and I’m not manic about accumulating high numbers of friends. If all I know about you is that you’re friends with a large number of Episcopalians I know, or emergent-church people I know, or biblical scholars I know, or any other constituencies I know, and if you don’t give me a compelling reason to accept your friend invitation, I won’t do it.
Excuse me now; I’m going to delete a bunch of friend requests.

3 thoughts on “Facebook, Privacy, and Friends

  1. I have yet to regret signing off with the possible exception of from family because I don’t want to miss news. Emailing me after informing facebook may seem a colossal bother to them.

  2. This is a reasonable request. I think often these request are the result of exuberant friending in the early days when one starts facebook, or come from the assumption that a (Biblical Studies, academic, etc.) rock star will be interesting to follow and probably welcomes a wide readership. The new solution seems to be the “fan” page, which might be a good alternative. I created a second, more generic account for students and acquaintances and that’s worked for me. I should add that I don’t know you very well but I’ve enjoyed following you and promise not to use your information for nefarious purposes, and I’ll also certainly understand if you unfriend me.

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