Facebook Friends

I have lately taken to using the term Facebook friends and I realized that I probably should make clear what I mean when I say “Facebook friends”.   There really is nothing new under the sun,  and anyone who has ever been successful in a large group of people has had some relationships that are….political.     In any big group you have some folks who are quite obviously too powerful to publicly piss off.   The wise newcomer tries to figure out who these people are as soon as they encounter a new group.

I’ve written many times before about my belief that it is far better to just block people you don’t care for and don’t want to deal with.   Indeed,  it seems as though I got brownie points with a number of people for quietly and unapologetically  blocking a few assholes some of my friends regarded as “Facebook freinds”.  (Which is to say that like me they realized the person was pretty much an asshole,  even though they made a conscious decision not to alienate the asshole.)  To be perfectly honest,  I do not believe that anyone can succeed in any large group without having some “political” friends–  people whom they may or may not like and/or be genuinely close to but whom they always publicly respect and don’t talk trash about.  These “political” friends are what I am referring to when I use the term “Facebook freinds”.

And since this is a post about clarifying things I’ve said before,  I will also go ahead and go on record here that I am quite, quite sympathetic to all of the criticisms that my friends make about Facebook.   I’ve been observing since before I signed up for it that Facebook has a horrible privacy policy and non-existent user service.  (Recalling a previous discussion about the fact that Facebook users are not Facebook’s customers.)   I’m not on Facebook because I saw it and I liked it or because I evaluated alternatives and decided it was somehow “the best”.    I’m on Facebook because pretty much everyone I currently talk to online is on Facebook.   But I never, ever forget that my relationships are with each of the people I talk with and not with the business that currently facilitates those conversations.   Web sites come and go.   Real human relationships endure. 

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18 comments on “Facebook Friends

  1. I’m on facebook for precisely the reason that there are people on facebook I care about that will never leave it. I have strong preferences elsewhere though.

    I’ve never, ever blocked a real person. I only block profiles that are obvious and persistent fictitious spam profiles. But then i don’t get accused of being a towering example of wisdom very often either, and I’ve learned that sometimes even gaseous windbags have valuable insights to share.

    • I suspect you’re right that sometimes even gaseous windbags (love that turn of phrase btw) can offer valuable insights. I’m less sure I agree about FB being a site the people you care about would never leave. Seems to me a few years ago when I was hanging out on Blog Catalog with folks like you and Hank and Tiffany, I suspect I would have said I couldn’t imagine not wanting to be on that site anymore. Yet today I’m not in fact on that site anymore. Although at the moment I am typing a comment to you, chatting with Hank in another window and speak with Tiffany fairly regularly on FB. imho, websites come and go, real human relationships endure.

      Mr. Everything often says that he :”has never blocked anyone”, although I’ve spoken with people who say they’ve been blocked by him. Honestly? There are not enough hours in the day for me to make room in my heart and my mind for people who come across as toxic to me. It may be, Dane, that you’re a bigger person than I am and don’t need to avoid gaseous windbags the way I do. But I definitely still believe it is far better to block someone than to flame with them in public.

      • I wouldn’t say I’m a bigger person (though I’m very likely a fatter person, but that’s a lament for another day) than you. I’m simply less prone to flaming people and, I think more likely to just walk away from an argument that i don’t see going anywhere.

        Also, I follow sun tzu on the whole keeping your enemies where you can spit on them thing. 😉

        I actually completely flubbed the windbag thing… I had a phrase i used for, you know, “those people”, and for the life of me the old timers disease wouldn’t let me have it this morning. What I really wanted to have said though, was ‘Pompous Gasbag”. Can’t be witty and pithy ALL the time, I suppose.

      • The bigger person thing is really an eye of the beholder kind of question I think. As for pompous gasbag, one thing I’ve learned as a professional writer– if it comes across well, just pretend it was Exactly what you meant to say 🙂

  2. Facebook friends is what it is. I’ve unfriended and blocked some who were negative most of time. I’m busy with my professional life and no time to deal with them. On the other hand, Facebook friends could become a friend in traditional sense. It takes time to nurture.

    • Nicolas, I think that for most users their friends on Facebook are a combination of people whom they have met both online and face to face at different times over the years. You’re certainly right that it takes time for real relationships to develop and mature.

  3. Alan, I see the people I engage with frequently as friends. I am still feeling my way as to how best use facebook, and so I happily block anybody who unsettles my not-yet- steady canoe. Particularly if it appeared the situation were going to turn nasty, and reason and discussion were not prevailing. Thank you for sharing.

    • After being online for more than 20 years now, I honestly still find myself learning and figuring out the best ways of doing things. I’m so pleased to hear that we agree about the utility of using the block button every now and then. Hope it’s a great weekend for you, Gaye.

  4. There is a distinction between friends and fans on Facebook that I think is interesting to notice!

    If friends are more about strong interactions, fans are more about weak ones.

    And there still exist the intermediary of groups on Facebook where you can create kinds of Mastermind groups with particular like minded people, friends, peers, colleagues.

    It’s a question of personal organisation that G+ seems to handle through circles.

    • Honestly, I haven’t really thought much in terms of “fans” on Facebook. Would “fans” be the same as “subscribers”? I agree with you I think that there are folks in our online lives with whom we have strong interactions and other with whom our interaction is weaker.

  5. I really wonder how it looks to ‘block assholes’. I think Facebook is the asshole we don’t really like but are freinds with because everything seem to happen on Facebook. Still, I have a weakness for assholes, but also very alert on what to post. They seem to watch everything.

  6. No questions that Facebook has (sadly, I think) redefined the word “friend.” All of my facebook friends are “connections” – only some are friends. FB can be a fun place to interact or at least stay in touch. It’s certainly been useful to me for reconnecting with people from long ago and far away. And I really enjoy FB groups. I unsubscribe anybody who posts objectionable stuff.

  7. The vast majority of the people I friended on Facebook up to a month or so ago I had met in person and had a real world connection with. More recently getting involved with EA I have added over half again, again half having regular interactions with and the rest through close association in groups. It does take time to nurture real relationships online, but it does happen, and not just through Facebook.

    • Language is such a powerful thing. For me, relationships with the people I meet and communicate with online are as real world as they come. Many, many years ago I stopped distinguishing between “online friends” and “real life friends” (that I eventually met face to face many of my earliest online friends certainly made a difference). For me, they are all just “friends”.

  8. Great summary of the facebook experience Alan, I have not had to block anyone yet, but I have only been active on facebook and Social Media for a few months. Great comment thread as well, no wonder I like to hang out with all of you.

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