Naughty Facebook

Yesterday i accepted a Facebook friend request from a guy at work. Those of you familiar with how one accepts a friend request see if you can spot the obvious mistake…

Here’s how it happened:

  1. I clicked on the friend requests box which was blinking a red friend request notification at me. There were four requests in the notification area, and i recognised Markus as he started at Nudge this week.
  2. I accepted Markus’ friend request and added him to my Facebook friend list called ‘Nudge’.
  3. It was only then that i noticed the box saying: “Your friend request has been sent”.

“But he requested the connection from you” i hear you saying. Correct.

So what happened?

The answer is that Facebook has started notifying users of recommended Friend suggestions in the Friend Request notification area. Here’s a screenshot:

I think this is really naughty of Facebook. For two reasons.

Reason one why it is naughty of Facebook:

This method uses sleight of hand to trick people into sending requests when they believe they are just politely accepting them. As a business its a good idea not to deceive your users.

Reason two why it is naughty of Facebook:

This is a business agenda to increase the number of connections between people. The more friends the average user has the more impressions Facebook can sell to advertisers from Stream stories coming into all our Newsfeeds. On the surface that’s fine – i’m happy and excited to see brands marketing in ways that benefit me and my friends. But when you consider that we use Facebook to connect with our friends; that Facebook has become successful because we take advantage of the relative privacy we have to share our thoughts with our friends but not the public at large, this cynical tactic pushes us to be friends with everybody. And everybody knows that when you’re friends with everyone you’re friends with no one.

Seth Godin talks about tribes. A tribe only works when some people are not invited to join. “Exclusion is an extremely powerful force for loyalty and attention. Who isn’t part of your movement matters almost as much as who is.”

If everyone is friends with everyone then we’re talking our minds to the whole internet. I can see why Facebook would want that in theory but in practise we value our privacy. And every new friend i add adds potentially another 130 people who can see my updates as friends of friends. Stop and think about that next time you add a friend you’re not really friends with (yet – sorry Markus).

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