It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“According to [a new AOL study] more than half of children surveyed (54%) don’t personally know all the friends accepted into their social network.” (“AOL Launches New SAFE SOCIAL for Parents with Social Networking Teens” 8/24/2010)
There’s a new set of etiquette when it comes to friendship in the 21st century. Knowing not to hook up with your BFF’s ex, or that friends don’t let friends drunk dial, isn’t enough. You must also know that a friend who tags you in an unflattering photo is no friend at all.
I’m still navigating the world of social network protocol. Here are my most pressing dilemmas:
1) Should I accept friend requests from people I’ve never met? The answer to this question should be no (hello, Internet predators), and yet I have a good handful of these phantom friends in my newsfeed. You never know who could be The BFF, so I err on the side of “confirm.” The fact that teenagers accept strangers is entirely scary, but as an adult it’s less an issue of getting bullied by fake accounts and more just a general “how much am I willing to put out there” debate.
2) What if I want to unfriend someone? It’s a sticky situation, one so common that “unfriend” was named the New Oxford American Dictionary’s 2009 Word of the Year. Real-life friend breakups come with all sorts of guilt, and Facebook has added a whole new element. The reasons for unfriending must be serious—you’re cutting this person off from all information about you—and yet the act of unfriending itself is pretty passive. A simple click of a button. “This absence of body language, and the single click immediacy of online sharing has created problems that have no ready parallel offline,” wrote Austin Considine in a recent piece in The New York Times.
3) How soon is too soon to friend someone? Today I got a request from a new friend, one with whom I’ve gone on two friend-dates, with this message: “How many friend dates before we can be Facebook friends?” I love that she called out the awkwardness of this protocol. Clearly I accepted. But I’ve had girl-date situations in which the potential BFF has friended me after we’ve scheduled the plan, but before it’s taken place. Meaning we’ve met over email but not face-to-face. I think that’s too soon. I wait to send the request (or not) until after we’ve hit it off (or not). But if the soon-to-be friend requests me? I always accept, despite sometimes wavering.
It seems worthwhile to mention here (last time, I swear!) that this blog now has a Facebook page. So if you’re a fan of the blog, perhaps you want to become fan of the page? So I can see your pretty face? Why thank you!
The jury is still out on these Facebook conundrums. Do you accept strangers? How do you defriend? And when is the appropriate time to send a friend request? Weigh in!