Why I don’t want to be friends on Facebook

February 16, 2011 · 9 comments

I’ve received a lot of friend requests on Facebook lately. Most are from people I’ve connected with through Twitter or other online forums, or public relations types who know me from my day job as a reporter.

But I don’t want to be friends with those people on Facebook.

It’s not because those people aren’t awesome. It’s not because I don’t find them interesting. It’s because, while I’m happy to connect with anyone and everyone through Twitter, LinkedIn and this blog, I use Facebook differently, in the way it was originally intended: to connect with family and friends, in a personal and unprofessional way.

That’s not to say I post inappropriate photos or share anything I wouldn’t want the world to know. But I’m far more personal on Facebook than I am on other social networks. Most everyone I’m friends with there is a real-life friend or, if I connected with them online, our relationship got personal through e-mail or some other form of communication that made me feel like I’m okay with them seeing photos from my family vacation or knowing that I’m going to visit my best friend for the weekend.

And yet, even though I know I want to keep Facebook personal, every time that new-friend alert pops up, I struggle with saying no. I usually view the new requests, then let them sit for a week or two, contemplating whether I should accept them even though I don’t want to. Because I genuinely want to connect with most of the people who contact me there — just not in a Facebook-y kind of way.

In some cases, it’s not just about what information I’m putting out there; it’s about what information they’re putting out. I don’t want to connect on Facebook with people who are working to grow their networks as big as possible, who will clog my feed with every blog post they ever publish. If I want to read your blog every day, I’ll subscribe. I’ll also happily fan your Facebook page, which I expect you’ll use to pimp your blog or business, because I want to support you. But if you have more than 1,500 friends, you probably don’t use Facebook the way I like to, which means we’re probably better off connecting somewhere else.

I don’t use Facebook to promote my blog (although I will create a Facebook page for my book when it’s time for that); I’ve been active on the network since before I knew what the word “platform” meant. Ironically, because I don’t inundate my friends with blog posts, when I do post a link from The Traveling Writer on Facebook — about once every two months, and only when it’s a personal development my friends would care about — I get a ton of clicks.

That’s because, while my 800 Facebook friends might not care about Lexi The Journalist or Lexi The Author, they care about me as a person. Which makes them far more valuable to me, not only personally, but also from a networking standpoint. It’s like how I tell job seekers to use their Facebook network for their job hunt. Friends who know you personally truly want you to succeed, more so than a contact on Twitter or LinkedIn, which means they’ll go out of their way to help you.

Why don’t I use Facebook’s privacy settings so I can become friends with everybody and their mother? I do. My friends are grouped according to how much of my profile I want them to see. But even that isn’t enough to satisfy me, because Facebook doesn’t allow me to filter certain status updates to certain groups. I either have to let you see all my status updates or hide them from you entirely. And what’s the point of being friends on Facebook if you can’t see my status updates? Update: Awesome website builder Jeffrey Pia has reminded me that you can make status updates visible to only certain groups of your friends. I should start using that feature more often.

So if I don’t accept your friend request, don’t be offended. It’s not you, it’s me. (Oh wait, actually, it might be you; see my more-than-1,500-friends reference). But it doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re fabulous. I’m just trying to keep some semblance of a personal life in this great, big, nothing-is-personal-with-the-Internet world.

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