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    How do you decide on friend requests?

    by Mark Glaser
    May 5, 2008

    If you belong to social media sites such as MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn Twitter, Flickr, et al, you probably face this question each day: Should I add this person as a friend? Most services will send you an email alert that someone has requested that you become their friend. Now it’s up to you to decide to accept or ignore it. On Twitter, you can become a “follower” for anyone and anyone can follow you — but who should you follow? On Facebook, friends can see your entire profile and pictures. So who should you let in? People you know? You’ve met? Work colleagues? School buddies? Where do you draw the line for online “friends” or do you refuse to draw the line and just accept anyone who asks? Share your strategies in the comments below and I’ll post the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    Tagged: comments facebook myspace social networking twitter
    • ljp

      I only accept serious musical ‘friends’ or anything I find interesting. I enjoy rejecting stupid sex-oriented ‘friends’ or bands I don’t like — the former especially annoy me!

    • I have one service which is for people I either know in person (ie physically have met) or have dealt with a lot online and would consider a ‘real life’ friend. For me, that’s Facebook. I discriminate quite heavily as Facebook has all my personal contact details on there. I try not to have work colleagues on my Facebook because that’s also where I complain about work :)

      Everything else I pretty much just follow/accept whoever looks interesting. Serendipity abounds here, which is half the fun of services like Twitter.

      I don’t use LinkedIn much (I should) but I see that as a serious, business/career orientated place. However, if I used it more I might have a different view.

    • tfo

      I only use three social networks: Friendster, because it was the first one I learned about and had some early adopters among my friends; orkut, because it’s Google, and it’s always interesting to keep up with Google (and coincidentally was timed with a trip to Brazil, where it is incredibly popular); and Linkedin, which seems to have moderate professional utility.

      I view each with a degree of exclusivity. Just about everyone connected to me in the personal social networks is an actual friend that I know in person. It has been interesting to be able to keep up with people from high school and college who are now scattered across the world.

      As with any service, liquidity makes a difference. Some of my friends have told me they don’t use Friendster anymore. And who wants to enter favorite movies into a dozen different social networks?

      Other than back in 1992 when I first discovered AOL, I’ve never met anyone online. Maybe, at 31, I’m already old-fashioned for the internet. :) But honestly, what use do I have for discovering the interests of someone I don’t know? The internet removes a layer of authenticity. There’s still something nice about actual social interaction. And I’m operating at about my personal capacity of people I can know and keep track of, so diluting my network with people I might never meet in person doesn’t serve my interests in any way.

      With regard to the professional network, I generally keep it exclusive to people I’ve actually worked with. My primary criterion is that I could make a recommendation of someone else or could ask for one. This keeps the value of the network high. I’ve engaged in a mix of submitting requests and accepting requests for connections.

      I was surprised to find a local investor I know on Linkedin. His remark? “I’ve never invited anyone else to become a contact.” So it’s interesting to see how the value flows through the network.

    • Hi, great post and blog. So glad to have found you! I have been wondering and blogging about some of these same questions. With all the social media out there, where does the average consumer go and how do you avoid overload and repetition.

      Like others are posting here, I have different social media tools for different functions so far. I use my real name and connect to real professional colleagues from all jobs/schools/ etc. on LinkedIn. Likewise I use facebook this way though with a slightly bigger network (college alums, etc. can view my profile).

      For ALMOST everything else I use my “washwords” persona, which in truth is not so different from my real persona except that I wanted to blog anonymously and I want to spread the word about my blog on most of the places I’m likely to post (and read): technorati, blogher, twitter,digg, del.icio.us.

      I guess the trick is that while I do post some washwords things for my friends and contacts on linkedin, I don’t (or try not to) go the other way: that is I don’t use my REAL id (name, photo) out there in blogosphere.

      But, because I know all that’s possible, and not TOO tough even, I try to write with the caution than anything I say COULD be attributed to ME, the real washwords. I guess it’s a variation on the NYT “test.” If you woke up and saw your photo in any scenario on the front page of the times, would you regret it?” now becomes, “if your avatar/bloggername/persona was out there doing x and it was revealed to be in fact you, would you regret it?”

      Thanks for the post…

    • Facebook – I know them
      Linked In – I know them
      Flickr – their work interests me, they’ve said something okay about mine
      Pownce – a lot of spam posting on Pownce, so I check and selectively add.
      Twitter – I add all, I’ll remove if they bore or post too often.

    • I check out the url on the profile page. if interesting, i follow

    • Stealingsand

      FB: I must know them and like them. No work people. Only people who will not misunderstand when my sister sends stripper-Stickies.

      LinkedIn: I know them and have respect for their work in my field or a very similar one. Well, mostly. Sometimes I get requests I feel I can’t turn down because I currently work with them and it’s politically necessary to do so. But that’s how I try to keep it. Which is probably why I don’t use it to its fullest.

      Flickr: they have pretty interesting work that inspires my own. And they post it often.

      MySpace: Eew. Got out of there a year ago and never looked back – too messy, UI and security problems. *shudder*

      Twitter: How could I forget Twitter. Got on a year ago or so and didn’t think much of it as a “blogging tool”, but now am exploring Twitter as a professional/semi-social way to be exposed to ideas, works, and people from all over. Like this post, actually.

      Am always looking for more quality people who post about interesting things. And the occasional human comment about their issues, frustrations, etc. I like hearing about problems/issues/software and hardware experiments. Discovered a new band there. I keep interesting people that provide me with inspiration, but don’t expect earth-shattering insight at all times. Added Barack Obama but wish he, or a reasonable facsimile, posted wins and comments. No morons or lurker-followers.

      I have lots of rules, but it’s interesting how many people have different ideas about what each service is “for”…does this stem from the inherent structure and designed use(s) of the service, or is it a natural progression/desire for differentiation when many services are largely indistinguishable?

    • Hi Mark,

      I only accept requests from people I actually know in the physical world. I am considering whether there’s a value to following people whose whereabouts I care about but who I don’t know… for instance a worker at a company that I cover on my beat (which, by the way I don’t do now, since I’m an editor); or a Hollywood star who’s fascinating etc.

    • Most of my “friends” anywhere are either people I know, or people who know people I know. The exception are odd spamers or people who “know” me through FolkAlley.com. I use my real name on MySpace (although, I don’t really maintain that account – I just keep it so I can contact bands, etc. through their MySpace pages) and Facebook. On Twitter, I don’t follow people who look like they’re following the world (if I’m #2,689, are you really that interested in me?) – and I’ve discovered a lot of people that are doing stuff professionally that I’m very excited to know about.

      Not on Linkedin yet – on Gather, but rapidly losing interest.

    • I use Twitter as a way to follow and keep in touch with people I actually know, with a few rare exceptions. I have no interest in following “internet celebrities” (like Robert Scoble or Dave Winer or whomever) – I’m happy to read their blog posts on topics I find interesting, but I don’t care what they had for breakfast.

      As for Facebook, I’m about ready to quit – I made the mistake of accepting friend requests from a ton of people I didn’t know all that well a while back, and now I’m inundated with nonsense every time I log in. Ugh.

    • Sarah

      Great question! For cultural reference, I’m a 30-year old executive female in Los Angeles.

      MySpace: I only ADD people I know in the real world or groups I’m interested in (such as the Rational Response Squad, et. al.). I never add bands. Ugh. I use MySpace primarily as a place to keep tabs on the people I don’t get to hang out with nearly enough.

      Facebook: I don’t use it. In my group, MySpace is the preferred site, whereas Facebook is what our younger siblings use.

      LinkedIn: I only ADD professional colleagues that I know…or have at least had lunch with. Personally, I haven’t found much practical use for the site. It just kind of sits there. I’ve messaged colleagues and posted requests, but they all tend to go unnoticed. In the business world of social networking, direct communication still seems to trump LinkedIn.

      Twitter: I’m new to the tweet. Initially, I couldn’t understand why someone would elect to offer their whereabouts all the time. Now I see that it’s really more about broadcasting interesting ideas…and I’m falling in love with that side of it. I find people by keyword (i.e. magazine, Wired, etc.) and follow them for a few days to see if they say anything interesting and keep on listening until they bore me.

      Flickr: I’m much more into words than images. I don’t even own a digital camera. (Yes, feel free to sneer here.) ‘Nuff said.

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