I Can’t Be Your Facebook Friend. It’s Not You OR Me, But My Privacy

I didn’t expect to write a post like this, but recent events have made me rethink that decision and perhaps be more specific in what I’m talking about. I recently posted something on my Posterous blog (“The Mobile Ken”) where I debate whether to establish a Facebook “fan page” instead of continually leaving my Facebook “open” to the outside world. I’d like to talk about what predicated me to write that post and what led me to think about setting up a “fan page” since it would be for a non-narcissistic reason.

Everyone wants to be friends with everyone

Too many Facebook friend requests

I know this is entirely different for each and everyone of you, but when I grew up and first started using the Internet, my parents warned me not to give too much information out to people I don’t know. Almost like the adage “don’t talk to strangers”, privacy has evolved from more of being just an analog phrase to something more applicable to the digital age. Now, granted I’m not in the same league as those from the Mashable team in terms of writing – not everyone wants to be my friend because I write for my blogs, or that I’ve some great insights and wrote a couple of best-seller books like Brian Solis, or that I’m an outstanding photographer like Lisa Bettany, but I do get my fair share of friend requests. But often times I’m just not sure who you are.

Above you can see a screenshot of the number of Facebook invites that I’ve received – over 150 of them, but there just isn’t enough reason for me to friend you. If there was some other reason to friend you, then that would be worth me clicking on the “confirm” button, but at this point, I just leave them in their own Facebook purgatory awaiting either to meet them or just finally push the “ignore” button.

The problem

Ken Yeung Facebook Profile

Surely it can’t be because that I have over 150 friend requests plus countless other odd requests that has led me to write this post. No, that’s not it at all. It wasn’t just one thing, but a multitude of things that have me worried and should probably concern you as well. I suppose it all started with the whole Facebook privacy debacle that has since blown over and caused some people to even delete their Facebook accounts – is it even considered a social network or a market research project for businesses? Regardless, that had me wondering about my privacy settings so I’ve made some adjustments in my account and then moved on with my life. However, I have also noticed that with friending everyone on social networks, I’m opening myself up to some unwanted attention. I’m all about sharing most of my thoughts, but I am also noticing that my friends are locking down more of their profiles- no wall posts are allowed on their profiles and less information is being shared.

Surprising trends I’m noticing:

  1. People I’m friends with are hiding more of their information from everyone.
  2. More friend requests, but less interest in accepting them.
  3. Less personalization.

Just this week, I attended the Geo-Loco conference here in San Francisco where they talked about the safety and danger of these location-based services (LBS). Granted, this isn’t necessarily tied into Facebook yet, but this has me thinking about how to really reorganize my content in a way that is widely accessible, yet still gives me some shred of privacy. This issue is not isolated to just Facebook, but I think that the best place to start where most of my social media presence is rests with the largest social network on the Internet today.

Often I’m hearing people talk about how there’s just too many friend requests, but there’s just no telling about who these people are. As I mentioned earlier, I have over 150 friend requests and I’m not willing to accept any of them. Why? Because there’s too little information for me to go on. Think about it this way, would you friend everyone on your city block without knowing who they were? Is it enough for you to friend someone just because the only thing you two have in common is that you live on the same block? That’s an absurd reason unless you’re only concerned about getting more followers and friends – it’s ridiculous and this leads me to the next point.

Why I will not be accepting your friend request

I’ve tweeted my disillusionment over accepting friend requests a couple times now but I think that this post will give me good space to air my grievances. Believe me, I’m definitely in favor of being your friend, but only if you give me a reason to be your friend. No, I’m not trying to be a douchebag…in fact, far from it. If you think that I should accept your friend request because you added me, then that might be a reason why you aren’t being accepted. In fact, let me cover a few reasons more:

1. No personal message

Facebook invite fail: no personal messageWe all have met a lot of people. Whether it’s at conferences, networking events, parties, social gatherings, etc. and it’s really difficult for people to remember one another. Just by a name and a picture isn’t a good way to meet someone. It really just requires some more research on my part to find out just how do I know you. If you’re also trying to reach an influencer or someone who could help shape your business, then I think that the personal message would go a  long way. Don’t assume that I or anyone else will remember you, especially if it was a crowded event and there wasn’t anything memorable. It takes all but a few seconds to leave a helpful note along that says why you’d like for a Facebook connection to happen and you could even say “we met at event X” or “we’ve exchanged emails about project Y”. Something helpful really goes a long way.

2. If I have to do research, then make it easy on me

Facebook research fail: What kind of info are you sharing?I might recognize some of the people that send me invites – your faces or names sound familiar. But before I blindly accept your request, I’d actually like to know more about you – like who you are, where could I possibly have met you, or if you were in some photos that I took at a party/event. But what I’m seeing is that people are not really letting others do more research. Why won’t you show an avatar or profile picture of you? If you want me to be friends and yet set your privacy settings so that I can’t see any photos of you, then please DO NOT set your profile picture to something so abstract or hilarious that I don’t even know who you are. I need to associate a face with the name, NOT a LOL Cat image. Also, just putting your interests and your Facebook URL does not tell me anything about you. Make sure people can see other things that might interest them, like what company you work for, specialties, etc – what will motivate them to say “Wow, that looks like someone I really need to be friends with.”

3. The number of mutual friends just isn’t convincing enough

Facebook mutual friends fail: who doesn't accept everyone?I once relied on the mutual friend count, but soon realized that I follow a lot of people who also are prone to following everyone that follows them – and all of this is with good reason: some are authors or well known bloggers/influencers or just like to live in public. That’s fine for them, but there are also others who only follow a select few. For me, if I see we have friends in common, I’d look to see who specifically we match. A majority of people there need to be those that I know doesn’t follow everyone back. This isn’t a rule that’s “set in stone”, but I have heard others who say that there is a specific quota of mutual friends that someone must have before they are accepted as Facebook friends. What that number is depends on the individual and is purely arbitrary.

4. You pitch in your personal message – we’re trying to be friends

Facebook friend request fail: no pitching allowedI once saw a Facebook friend request come by my way and it had a personal message. But when I looked more closely, the message was a pitch. A pitch. What the heck is this about? It’s a hard sell…and frankly I’m not too fond of that. I didn’t even know this guy and he sends me a message asking me to buy his stuff? He’s also friends with a brand so that makes it easier to befriend? No…

Is this a solution?

Ken Yeung Facebook Fan Page

So this has all helped shape my next steps for a solution. Within Facebook, I’d like to continue with my personal profile and post my photos and interesting news to share with my closest friends and family, but I’d also like to let others who I may not have accepted their friend request to have them join a “fan page” that is named after me. I don’t consider myself famous enough either in real life or on the web to even think I have fans, but I would like to use this “page” as a means of opening up my life and letting people share in the experience. By doing this, I’m hoping to post specific photos from tech events and blog posts so that people can follow along and learn more about what’s happening in my world. To put it this way: my profile page is more personal (friends/family) while the “fan page” would be my professional entity…my business persona’s attempt on separating itself and still protecting my privacy while still remaining open.

Hopefully you won’t think of me as becoming a douchebag because I do not intend to be one. Rather, I see my online presence becoming way more open than I feel comfortable right now and I’d love to reclaim some of it for myself so that I can still be free to share information.

So what do you think? Should I keep with one profile or separate the two and develop a fan page to help promote my “brand” and other things more efficiently?

Image credit: takethebus / sxc.hu

Ken Yeung Avatar

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10 responses to “I Can’t Be Your Facebook Friend. It’s Not You OR Me, But My Privacy”

  1. Jonha Revesencio Avatar

    I agree with you Ken. I have just recently setup a page for non-friends and just like your reasons, I needed some privacy and though I don't consider myself famous, I felt the need to draw a line between real friends and not.

    1. Ken Yeung Avatar

      @Jonha – thanks for your comment. I think you're exactly right…there needs to be a line drawn between real friends and those who just want to have a relationship with you. How have you promoted your page and has that resulted in you being more comfortable with your privacy?

  2. Seafarer Avatar

    Thanks for letting me know that I'm not the only one with a stack of friend requests that leave me asking, “Who the hell IS this?”

    Why don't people take the time to add a personal message? Because many don't even know that option exists.

    Still, I don't have time to bounce back and forth with “How do I know you?” messages. Last time I did that, most respondents admitted that actually, they did not know me at all. Many just thought we should connect because they were another writer, or we had a bazillion mutual friends.

    Nope, not happening. Ignore button, here I come. 🙂

    1. Ken Yeung Avatar

      Hi Sheila, glad you found this post informative.

      I actually do not respond to people's Facebook requests unless they are really interesting – do I recognize their face or name, for example. Weird though that I never hit the ignore button because I think I'm afraid that if I actually meet these people – even those that live in India or wherever, I'm going to be upset that I ignored their friend request. So I just let it sit there.

      You're probably right that people don't take the added time to send a personal message – I often times don't, but only because I'm pretty sure the person really knows me. However, it's more like a cover letter and people should start doing that. Maybe make it more noticeable?

  3. Sue Anne Reed Avatar

    A coworker at my former job recently set up a second profile on Facebook. She likes to keep her personal and profession lives pretty separate, but another reason is that she is the admin for many of the “fan” pages for the non-profit. She didn't want to have to worry about anything she posted on her Facebook profile having any sort of negative impact on the agency.

    I definitely think this is a question a lot of us are asking. I'm fence sitting a bit on who I want to add as a “friend”. I don't want to go through the complexity of setting up a bunch of lists and custom filters, so for now I'm being fairly selective as to who I'm adding as a friend and just taking that route.

  4. Mike P Avatar

    I don't accept friend requests if I do not know the person. I have “locked down” my Facebook page so that only friends can view my information, and I don't have an issue with that. I also have a Linkedin page, a Twitter account and a personal blog. In saying that, I believe that there is a right place for everyone that I know, both professionally and personally, or even people that I do not know. If you are looking for a page that highlights who you are and what you are doing personally, without sharing additional information, just open a blog on Word Press or start blogging on a page so that you can drive people that you don't know to that page.

  5. JS Chancellor Avatar

    I’ve heard quite a few folks mention the distinction between “real” friends and FB friends and I have to say that for some of us, there isn’t one. The majority of ‘outside’ connections I’ve made on FB are other writers, readers, or professionals in the publishing industry. The city I live in doesn’t exactly have a wealth of culture and I’ve gotten to know artists, musicians and people I’d generally never meet were it not for that random friend request. I’ve gone on to form a literal, face to face, friendship with many of them.

    I have a friend who landed an agent through FB. They started chatting. That led to a friendship, which eventually led to a deal, through the agent’s representation, with Del Ray.

    But, I understand the want for privacy. If you know what you’re doing, it only takes a little bit of information about a person, to find out a whole lot more.

  6. JS Chancellor Avatar

    PS. Ken, your Facebook page is listed on this very site, on the column to the right, under the heading “Social Me.” You’re asking for friend requests by placing it there unless you change the link to your fan page instead of your actual profile.

  7. Ken Yeung Avatar

    @JS – thank you for your comments…I agree with a lot of your points that you made.

    In regards to the Facebook page being listed on this site, you’re right…I did put it there so people will be able to find me. I think that making it visible and helping people find me is convenient and benefits everyone. And I’m *not* opposed to getting friend requests. I am, however, not a fan of getting friend requests from people without understanding why they want to be friends with me. I love meeting people, but for my own privacy and safety while balancing out “living in public”, I only allow friend requests to my personal FB page (which is linked here). I’d gladly add people to my Facebook profile if we’ve met, had contact in some way or if there’s multiple things in contact – basically see what I’ve highlighted above.

    Including a fan page there is fine, but at this point, I’m still not sure whether it’s worth it for me or not…I hate to sound like I’m being a snob by setting up a fan page, but it’s more practicality versus invoking a celebrity status online.

    Regarding your other comment about how there sometimes isn’t a distinction between “real” and FB friends, you’re right as well…it isn’t a universal thing that you can apply amongst everyone. I, myself, have mixed together my FB profile with friends that I’ve met online and also those that I know firstly via IRL experiences. The web has definitely built up ways for us to connect with one another and I’m in favor of that. HOWEVER, while we tout the awesomeness of the web, let’s also make sure that it does not entitle us to just be friends with anyone. Common sense and manners must come into play when you want to be friends with someone in order to either (a) build a personal relationship, (b) do professional work with, or (c) just be a fan of.

  8. JS Chancellor Avatar

    Oops, sorry it took me forever to respond to this. I was busy pimping my book at tradeshows and getting ready for its release (waaaaay more hectic a thing than I anticipated).

    I had so many squirmy feelings about setting up a fanpage. I know what you’re talking about when you say that you’re not sure whether it’s for you or not. If it weren’t for the book, and the fact that I write under a pen name, I wouldn’t have done it either.

    Thanks for this blog post, it was a good one!

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