Instant Messaging and Video Chatting Through Facebook

In the ancient days of middle school, Facebook was budding as a social network open to all users. At this time, wall posts and messages reigned supreme as ways of communicating – but this wasn’t good enough.

At the time, Instant Messaging (IMing) was hugely popular for kids our age, and not far behind in growing popularity was the Video Chat. At this time, social networks were distinctly different from IMing and video chatting services. This service often came from third party software that needed to be separately installed on one’s computer. An added inconvenience was when your different social circles used different IMing services. I remember having multiple windows up for AIM and some up for MSN Messenger, and there was no easy way to scroll through them. Also, different services had different features; for example, some were purely for IMing while others included video chatting, while others had superior emoticons, and still others had drawing functions.

These third party IMing services seemed to be in constant competition with each other. The first player to really rock the boat was Meebo, a site accessible from any computer regardless of whether the software was installed, which allowed access to multiple IMing services on the same screen from the same login page. This was a huge step toward a convenient messaging experience, but it was still in a separate window from your social networking site.

Myspace was the first online networking giant to introduce IMing, but if memory serves it was “glitchy” at best. Myspace messaging would crash and delay often, and there were no privacy settings to limit who could see when you were online or not. One concession I’ll make for Myspace IMing was that one could choose an “emotion” to correlate to their online avatar; this simple addition deterred and encouraged many a conversation – at least for me.

Finally, in 2008, Facebook introduced their own IMing service to connect users who were already “friends.” Today, the IMs are rarely glitchy. Facebook has partnered with video chatting giant Skype to provide face-to-face instant communication, but Facebook’s version is substandard and blurry compared to the typical Skype experience. Have the third party IMing and video chatting services been eradicated? Well…yes and no, depending on the user.

The simple IMer should have no problems using Facebook’s service, but for anything extra it’s still necessary to use a third party. Skype, Oovoo, Google, and TinyChat provide more reliable and clear video chatting, with the option of having more than two people present in the conversation. Also, for those interested in complex emoticons, drawing capabilities, and screen sharing, third parties are necessary. At the same time, the convenience of having all of your Facebook friends already in your IMing friends list is hard to compete with, and I doubt that any other third party service could compete with the simple IMing function on Facebook. Also, the people interested in IMing probably already spend time on Facebook and can avoid the added trouble of multiple windows or tabs.

P.S. Here’s an interesting article relating last week’s discussion about Mark Zuckerberg to our first week’s discussion about internet privacy.

P.P.S. I apologize for this late post! I mistakenly hit “Preview” rather than “Publish” last Wednesday, and so this post was only saved as a draft instead of a blog post.

Be Careful What You Put On Facebook (In More Ways Than Ever)

In this course, we have learned about the (sometimes surprising) extent of Facebook’s data collection.  The company keeps exhaustive files on every user that include deleted messages, and it stored all photos even from deactivated accounts.  It also allows third party applications to have access to information on our accounts and our friends’ accounts.

The last way it uses our information is for advertisement profiling.  This is an aspect of Facebook’s data collection that, while concerning to some users, seems to be well within the ethical realm of what Facebook can do with our data.  After all, Facebook is a business, and its goal is to make money.  Nobody can blame them for trying to maximize the ad potential by profiling users.  It can also lead to a better user experience – a targeted ad has a much higher potential to be of use to users.

Yet recently, Facebook may have crossed a line with its profiling.  It is unclear at this point, but it may have extended from giving information to applications and advertisers to providing insurance companies with data that could actually be detrimental to one’s insurance rates.  For example, people who “like” motorcycles or are friends with people who sky dive could be deemed higher risk.

Even if Facebook is not specifically providing insurance companies with this data, the companies are using data mining services to get information on people through their Facebook profiles.  This way, crosschecking applications with profiles is made simple, as algorithms can do all of the work.  They can also assign “scores” to mass amounts of people based on their likes and posts.  Just last year, a woman’s sick leave benefits were cut after her insurance company claimed she was not depressed due to pictures of her “having a good time” were posted on Facebook.  If Facebook is not working with the insurance companies, it is unclear how they are gaining access to private posts.

I think this use of Facebook data is completely unreasonable and should not be allowed.  It crosses from manipulating the user experience of Facebook into an invasion of people’s real lives. If Facebook is indeed providing information to insurance companies, I foresee an extremely negative impact on Facebook’s reputation.  Not only would I expect court cases and a potential investigation by the FTC, but also a change in people’s use of Facebook and their perception of this social media network.  People have known for a while it may not be a safe space for pictures of partying or inappropriate behavior, but if Facebook is no longer a safe space for even expressing acceptable interests and activities, it will fall a long way.

Deleting Facebook

So its the first free day after all my Midterms.

Back in high school, during Midterms, people would sometimes “delete” their Facebook page in order to concentrate on their studies. I put quotations around delete because, as we know, clicking delete doesn’t actually delete your page.

In fact, people “deleted” Facebook all the time. When a friend’s boyfriend in Fuji (long story) un-facebook official’d her, she had me change her password — effectively deleting her page until she decides to send herself the password reset email.

It’s becoming more and more common now — somehow deleting Facebook removes and insulates you from the world at large. Don’t want to know how all of your friends were accepted into college while you weren’t? Delete Facebook. Have millions of papers due tomorrow? Delete Facebook.

But, you know, most everyone returns sooner or later.

It’s pretty much like the internet — while we could live for a couple weeks mass without stepping into the world wide web, we cannot afford to be cavemen for the rest of our lives. While we could be electronically friendless, no one really wants to be. It’s merely a temporary measure — to just let you focus when you need it.

It’s an interesting dynamic we have go on.

On one hand, we recognize that Facebook is unnecessary and perhaps even harmful to our abilities to focus and to work at peak efficiency. We realize that, sometimes, its better to force unplug ourselves from this frankly addicting social network and remove the distraction from our lives. We didn’t need Facebook before it existed and we certainly don’t   now. In fact, after deletion, we don’t get huge urges to log on to Facebook or feel like we are completely disconnected from human civilization. In this sense Facebook is merely a pastime and something that is fun to use and play with.

On the other hand, most of us still choose to reinstate our accounts, hinting that perhaps Facebook isn’t as expendable as it might seem. Despite not really getting huge craving for Facebook during the times we need it deleted, many of us would also feel somewhat weird not accessing the social network after the time we needed it deleted is over. Without fail, we will reactivate our accounts after the period we needed it gone is over.

Perhaps this is the difference between Facebook and all our other Social Interactions. With Facebook, we have more control. We can choose to simply turn it off temporarily and all will be OK. However, at the end of the day, Facebook is something we end up going back to.

Thoughts on movie

After watching the Social Network, there are a few things that are on my mind still from our discussion in class.  I have seen this movie several times, but after having the post-viewing discussion in class, I have started to have some new insights and thoughts about what the writers were really portraying to the viewer that I haven’t had before.  First, I thought it was interesting talking about the different angles the movie was getting at while it went back and forth between the two different law suits.  The lawsuit between Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg depicts the more personal side of the whole situation, while the lawsuit between the Winklevoss twins is more about the ideas behind the founding of Facebook, and seemingly wrongful allegations brought forwards against Mark.  Although both do have to do with events that actually happened with the founding of Facebook, there is a more much personal tone in the lawsuit with Eduardo.  One example of this is when Eduardo turns to Mark and says, “I was your only friend”, showing that he felt completely betrayed and hurt, beyond the monetary part of the situation.  There is also the line showing Mark’s sympathy towards Eduardo, when they talk about the article in the Crimson about Eduardo with the chicken, and Mark’s lawyer says that he did not want this to even become part of the evidence in the case.  There is also the fact that Mark seems more attentive and cares more in the scenes with Eduardo, unlike in some of the meetings with the Winklevoss twins where he is doodling in his notebook, and even tells their lawyer that he does not even deserve Mark’s full attention during the meetings.

Another part of our discussion that I continued to think about a little after was the differences we saw between Mark and Sean Parker.  I think the scene in the club with those two is where the writers really want us to see that they are much different people.  When Mark asks Sean if he ever thinks about that girl from high school, he responds like it was a dumb question to even ask, while it is clear that Mark always thinks about Erica, and that they are much different people with different mindsets, values, and goals for the future.  I thought this movie was very well done, and I certainly thought it was worth our time to watch it in class and discuss.

Facebook, You Are Not Ready to Be King

It is a great week to work at Facebook. The company’s stock closed at an all time high of $23.23, and the world’s youngest billionaire was able to add $2 billion to his pocket. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Facebook and Google are fighting for control of the web. Now that it seems to have figured out how to monetize its mobile user base, Facebook seems to be well on the way of winning the battle. I also wrote about how Facebook is so ubiquitous, it is not going away anytime soon. In fact, I read an article a few days back that even parents take disciplining to Facebook. It is not so hard to imagine that pretty soon, Facebook will be everywhere. However, consider the implications of that statement for a moment. As fun, addictive, and ubiquitous as Facebook is, it is not ready to rule the web. Facebook is like this young teenager who is being groomed to take over his father’s company one day, which is fitting considering how young the CEO is. In some ways, it is fresh and innovative; in others, it is rash and dangerous. Unless Facebook undergoes a radical change anytime soon, I for one do not wish to live in the world dominated by Facebook.

The amount of information Facebook has on us is ridiculous. When we first signed up for Facebook, we gave up our names, birthday, relationship status, and interests, to name a few. As we continue using Facebook, Facebook’s data on us grows. It knows exactly what kind of sports we like, which of our friends are close friends, and what we look like. To prove my point, allow me to present a website, “Take This Lollipop.” Try this at your own risks.

To make matters worse, starting last year, Facebook developed a new tool that would allow any websites to create “Facebook app” that would link the users right back to Facebook. I did not know how powerful this was until yesterday, when a friend of mine suddenly “liked” my activity on CNet. My first reaction was, “What activity?” Turns out, when I played the video review of the new Microsoft Surface, CNet automatically sent that data back to Facebook that I “checked out” the tablet. To make this even creepier, I never even connected my CNet account to my Facebook account. Facebook, I have a reputation to keep. You can’t go around telling people that I checked out a Microsoft product. In all seriousness, remember that as of now, Facebook is not nearly at its full potential. Imagine how much more Facebook will know about us when it is truly everywhere.

Facebook’s massive data on us is not nearly as scary as how tactless Facebook is in using it. Facebook needs to learn to respect its users. True, when we signed up for Facebook, we agreed to its privacy policy (assuming anyone actually reads it). Technically, Facebook can do whatever it wants with our data. However, there are certain moral obligations that Facebook must uphold. Quoting an analogy from my class discussions, even though we users know what we are getting into by jumping on the Facebook train, Facebook needs to respect us enough to give us the chance to get off. In fact, Facebook has been going in the very opposite direction. It is virtually impossible to delete anything that has been posted to Facebook. Facebook also has a habit of rolling out new features without giving users much of a choice to opt out. The news feed and timeline are prime examples of this. Like a teenager, we can never know what Facebook will do with a loaded gun in its hands. This is not the kind of character fit to dominate the Internet; Facebook must learn that moral obligations are different and just as important, if not more, than legal obligations.

Two weeks back, I wrote about measures one can take to create a firewall between Facebook and the rest of the Internet. However, if and when Facebook becomes the sole dominant entity on the Internet, it will be impossible to prevent Facebook from spying on us. As it is now, we have no idea nor can we expect a certain decency as to how Facebook uses our information. Any form of monopoly is bad; one by Facebook is a nightmare. Facebook needs to grow up, for all of our sakes.

Facebook was Born from Misogyny

The information in this article was taken from

             After our discussion in class regarding the pervasive misogyny in The Social Network, I decided I would do a bit more research on what Sorkin himself said regarding the topic. I found a post he wrote in response to a Tarazza who said the following:

I found it intriguing that Sorkin felt it was necessary to punch the audience in the face using the misogynist culture that is the tech industry. More specifically, he states “Facebook was born during a night of incredible misogyny…” Mark Zuckerberg is trying to get back at his girlfriend so he writes hateful blog posts and creates Facesmash, a website which compares girls’ attractiveness. This shallow evaluation is pretty easy to understand, but why does Sorkin go to such extreme lengths to showcase women as prizes?

The point Sorkin wanted to make was that women weren’t just eye candy or pretty things nerds surrounded them with. The women portrayed in the movie are objects to be controlled. Sorkin comments that the people who created Facebook weren’t the “…cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 70s. They’re very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren’t women who challenge them.” This commentary is exemplified through the character of Sean Parker – he is constantly surrounding himself with women. These women are objectified – we see a Victoria Secret model, two girls getting high on the couch, girls doing drugs.

Interestingly, through the chauvinistic tone of the movie, the character of Mark Zuckerberg shows an uncharacteristic (in the perspective of the movie) soft spot. When he asks Sean Parker about Napster, Parker says he created it to steal a girl he liked from the high school football star. When Zuckerberg follows up with the question of whether Parker still thinks about her, Sean responds with a vehement no. Zuckerberg, however, seems to have created Facebook in order to impress Erica – this was illustrated when he tells Eduardo that they have to expand after their unfortunate confrontation at the club. At the end of the film, an interesting continuity is shown when Zuckerberg clicks on the refresh button on his computer waiting for Erica to respond to his friend request. This scene demonstrates that Zuckerberg hasn’t forgotten about his roots. Although this certainly is fiction, the closing scene provides some consolation regarding the film’s misogynistic tendencies.

Aaron Sorkin apologizes to Tarrazza at the end of his response, but I think the film’s sexism contributes to the overall message. Indeed, this nuance makes the movie more Hollywood-esque and appealing to the male demographic.

An account from a Harvard Gentlemen

After watching the movie the “Social Network” in this week’s class, I was very intrigued to understand the lives of the college students who were involved in Facebook’s inception. I tracked down a class of ‘04 student who gave me his perspective of campus life during one of the most revolutionary times for social networking. In order to preserve his identify, I simply refer to him as the “Harvard Gentlemen” through the interview.

Q: Did you use or know/hear of Facemash?

A: “Don’t remember, I remember hot or not.”


Q: When did you join Facebook?

A: “December 2004”


Q: How did you hear about this new site?

A: “Word of mouth on campus, we had hard copy physical freshman Facebook that we thought evolved into this.”

Q: What attracted you to the site?

A: “Ability to check out hot girls on campus.”


Q: Did you know Mark Zuckerberg or the twins?

A: “I Knew of mark and knew the twins on a casual basis.”

Q: What was Zuckerberg’s reputation like on campus?

A: “Smart computer programmer, I wasn’t close enough to know his reputation intimately.

Q: What was the twins’ reputation like?

A: “Over privileged brothers who were on the crew team.”

Q: Did everyone know that the twins were promoting a similar website at the time?

A: “Somewhat, they knew of connect U it was during the embryonic stages of the social media craze with MySpace.”

Q: Do you think there is truth to the claims that Zuckerberg stole the twins’ idea?

A: “Well yes and no. It seems like there was no evidence to prove the deal was in writing or legally protected. Intellectual ownership of an idea does not apply when social networking websites are already in place. It’s whoever gets to the market fastest and with the best product that gets the best return. And that’s what Zuckerberg did.”

Q: Did you watch the “Social Network”? If so, what did you think?

A: “It was somewhat accurate I believe, although Hollywood took the liberty of glorifying campus life: finals clubs, girls etc.”

Q: Did you think Facebook would take off like it did?

A: “I thought it would grow but didn’t think it would be a globally phenomenon. I would have sold much earlier on.”

Q: Why do you think it took off like it did?

A: “People want to constantly interact in today’s society, it’s another medium to do that, its also another place to market yourself to others for relationships, business, etc.

Q: Was the misogyny prominent in the movie common place on campus and in finals clubs?

A: “Eh not in my experience but finals clubs were more a place to meet women and invite them to private parties than anything else.”


The Harvard Gentlemen’s account is very interesting when compared with the Hollywood fantastical version. In my opinion the reputation of the twin’s seems to translate well throughout the movie as most of the audience has very little sympathy for them. Also, the Harvard Gentlemen refers to the fact that he did not know Zuckerberg really at all, which also well portrayed in the movie, as the character seemed very isolated and introverted. However, as for misogyny on campus, it seems to deviate from reality on campus. Thus, reflecting solely on the tech world and the environment in both Silicon Valley and silicon alley. For the most part it seems the partying depicted throughout is not only used to glorify the life of a programmer, but also juxtaposes the age and immaturity of Zuckerberg that belies his technological brilliance and ingenuity.


The Rules of Facebook

I was late to Facebook. I joined in the end of 8th grade, and by that time all my friends had been on the site for at least a year. So when I did I finally join, I was ignorant to the numerous unspoken rules that governed this online social matrix that was populated with hundreds of my nearest and dearest friends, acquaintances, and those people I sorta knew. One day, a few weeks after my excursion into Facebook began, I wrote a short wall post on my friend’s wall. After I had posted it, I noticed that I had made a spelling mistake. In a simple effort to correct my error (as I am a perfectionist at heart), I deleted the post and replaced it with a nearly identical one, albeit error-free. I had no idea that I had just violated one of Facebook’s tacit social maxims.

Shortly thereafter, my friend inboxed me with a message that said something along the lines of, “Way to delete a wall post! CREEPY.” When I reacted with surprise, she proceeded to inform me that deleting a wall post before someone saw it was a no-no. She explained that the person gets a notification that you posted on their wall before quickly changing your mind, and therefore it makes it look like you posted something weird or suggestive that you decided to take back.

This interaction was my first indication that Facebook was governed by certain social norms – that there was an implicit set of social standards that dictated conduct on Facebook.

Interestingly enough, a big part of the social standards of Facebook, is that it is not acceptable to not be on Facebook. In middle school, when my friends all had Facebook accounts and I did not, I was constantly harassed by them as to why I did not have a Facebook. Mind you – this was 5 years ago. At that time, most of my friends had had Facebook accounts for little over than a year. Facebook had around 30 million users, compared to its 1 billion users of today. 5 years ago, the social pressure to join Facebook was significant. But today, I imagine that it must be overwhelming. Indeed, there is definitely a certain stigma to not being on Facebook. I noticed this when my high school friends were checking out their roommates on Facebook before going to college. When one of my friend’s couldn’t find her roommate on Facebook, everyone concluded that she must not have one and was probably very weird.

But the rules don’t stop once you’re on Facebook. There are specific norms to adhere to. The most obvious one is the notion of being “Facebook Official,” meaning that when a couple changes their relationship status on Facebook, the relationship is codified. It is on Facebook, therefore it exists. Similarly, if a user sets his or her profile picture to a photo exclusively with a member of the opposite sex, it probably means that they’re dating.

And then there is Facebook stalking. It’s acceptable (and everyone does it) as long as the other person doesn’t catch on to the fact that you’re going through all their photos. Then that would be creepy.

While these rules may seem bizarre or arbitrary on some level, on another, there couldn’t be anything more natural. Every institution – from schools to parties to libraries – have certain social norms to govern behavior. Why should Facebook be any different?


The Battle of Ecosystems: Google, Microsoft, and Amazon

Continuing the discussion in last week’s post, I will now address the other three challengers to the market: Google, Microsoft, and Amazon.


Coming right up behind Apple, Google is the next biggest challenger for the loyalty of its users. Google already has the majority share of the search market–it just has to turn that lead into a lead for all of its services. In some areas it’s already leading: Maps, Android, Gmail, Docs, etc., but its current challenge is to get all of those services synced together.

Historically, Google early on established a model of positive feedback with the quality of their search engine and other offerings, but there was nothing essentially tying users to Google’s products. Old mail was stored on Gmail’s servers, but that could easily be ported to a new account (contrasted to Apple, whose ease of use and compatibility between Mac, iTunes, and the iPod [which could not be synced outside of iTunes] basically made it very hard to switch to a competing product). People could go use Google’s Search, Maps, Local, etc., but it was extremely easy for users to switch to other offerings, such as Bing, Mapquest, or Yelp. It also doesn’t help Google that physical devices tend to produce more impact than abstract ones.

Google is currently trying to wear away on Apple’s lead by building an ecosystem around its online offerings using its own ChromeBooks and devices that run its Android OS. These products tie down users to Google’s ecosystem. Android has been relatively successful because of two things: its openness and price. The OS is free for any company to use, a sharp departure to Apple’s philosophy of locking down ecosystems. Thus, more devices are pushed out, giving consumers more options, and thus higher market share (similar to Windows in the Windows v. Mac fight).

Google thrives on its web services, and has continuously been trying to tie users back to those services. The challenge for Google is to convince users to exclusively use their offerings and to tie them together, so users don’t view Google as having separate offerings–rather, a complete ecosystem to get everything done.


Microsoft, the late player to the ecosystem game, arguably has the hardest job in trying to win users over to its ecosystem. Besides starting 3 years too late on a phone and 2 years too late on a tablet, most people who would buy one of those devices have already bought into an ecosystem, if not with an Android or iPhone, with the iPad. Microsoft thus needs to offer compelling performance to tell users to make the switch to its Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Windows RT platforms. Unfortunately, it can’t really offer any migration paths between Google and Apple’s offerings, so Microsoft is stuck in a hard place.

Pity too, since the technologies look very promising. The Metro user interface style has been widely praised, and its easier than ever to sync documents and edit them using Microsoft Office anywhere you are. The one thing that Microsoft does have running for them, however, is familiarity, switching costs, and (to a slight extent) compatibility. Windows is the most used PC OS by far, and Microsoft can easily update those users machines to Windows 8. Corporate IT departments can also be loathe to switch to Mac, which won’t support the legacy software they run. Additionally, Windows RT also allows users to edit documents and presentations in full-featured versions of Microsoft Office, thus providing users with one feature no other tablet can offer. And with Windows 8’s app store, Microsoft can definitely lock users into their own ecosystems, because even if users aren’t using a Microsoft tablet, they can still buy into their ecosystem on their PC.

Microsoft’s challenge is to demonstrate to users that the benefits of their ecosystem is dramatically better than staying with either Google or Apple. If they can leverage their power with the living room through Xbox, the PC with Windows, and productivity with Office and convince people to switch (which is entirely possible!), they might just develop into a powerful force to be reckoned with. If not, it will remain a distant player in the personal device market.


While not most visible, Amazon is also very far along in building its own ecosystem. Firstly, Amazon’s customer satisfaction, and therefore positive feedback, has been proven to be higher than any other company in the world, allowing it to retain customer loyalty. Amazon’s main offerings–its store and web services–generate enough revenue to allow this company to take a hit in other areas as an investment.

For example, Amazon’s Kindles are sold at a loss for each device, but because Amazon knows that this loss is offset by the purchases made for the Kindle, they are willing to subsidize the device. Thus, the Kindle line is able to undercut other eReaders and tablets, giving Amazon another major selling point. And because their Kindles are locked down, users are forced to buy books from Amazon’s own store, and read them on Amazon’s own proprietary Kindle software and hardware.

As such, Amazon uses its positive feedback for the marketplace to garner support for its other devices, and lower prices to undercut the competition for a slice of the pie. It’s been a successful strategy so far.


Lastly, building an ecosystem does not solely depend on the demand-side of devices. Customers want computers, tablets, and phones, but when looking into an ecosystem, they also want the apps and support that comes with it. Developers are often locked into one ecosystem by coding languages (Objective-C for Apple, Java for Google, C++/C# for Microsoft) and cannot easily migrate easily from one app store to another. One can argue that the iOS App Store is one of the main reasons why Apple devices are so popular. The same goes with the support after purchase (Apple Store, Microsoft Store!). Because in this new digital age, what matters is not the purchase (as Amazon has correctly figured out), but the company’s other offerings aside from the purchase. As companies increasingly vie for users’ loyalty, be prepared to see an influx of new tactics and services solely focusing on the ecosystem, because nowadays, that’s all that matters.

Are we really friends on Facebook?

I was thinking about this question when I read a post on Facebook:

More and more people are treating the ‘Add friend’ button on Facebook as the ‘Follow’ button on Twitter: they do not necessarily know you, neither do they really want to be your friends; they just want to know what is going on with you.

When someone tries to add you as friend, Facebook gives you information on the number of ‘common friends’ you two share. While that piece of information is being used by some people as an important determinant in accepting/rejecting friend requests, many simply do not care about this number and choose to accept the request right away. In fact, I have done a little experiment using my own Facebook account: I randomly typed in a name in the ‘search people’ section and sent friend requests to the first 20 people on the list whom I share no ‘common friends’ with (I apologize to those 20 guys puzzled by the friend request from this total stranger). To my surprise, 12 out of these 20 people accepted my friend request within a day; 4 more accepted my request within the next 2 days and the rest 4 did not respond. Nobody actually rejects me! Hooray!

I know my experiment design is not sophisticated enough to be foolproof, but at least it says something about our behavior online that could be different from what happens in the real world. People are curious about what is going on with others, even those they do not personally know. And if the cost of knowing others’ life is reduced to just one click on the ‘Add friend’ button, why not go ahead and do it? For those receiving the friend requests, they feel flattered (if not puzzled) if people are interested in his/her life. Few people actually click the ‘reject’ button because they do not want to disappoint the requester by being ‘rude’. They just choose to ignore the request which has similar effect as rejecting the request but saves face for both sides.

I am definitely not the first one to discover this, and there are many people online who are thinking about the same question as I do: how many ‘friends’ on Facebook are real and genuine friends of ours? One reply to that post above shows an answer to this question (and the person who replied happens to be my friend – on Facebook):

I am seriously considering un-friending my friends on Facebook one by one and then spend some time thinking about what this particular ‘friend’ means to me: if I can find a good reason, I will leave a sincere message to this friend and submit a friend request again; if not, then it does not hurt to un-friend this guy.

I am not sure whether he will add me again after un-friending me, but his idea absolutely intrigues me. At a time when everything is fast-paced and result-orientated, we really need some space to take a breath and reflect upon our definitions of basic ideas like ‘friends’. By randomly submitting and accepting friend requests, people are indeed more ‘connected’, but not in a way we actually want. We are blurring the boundary between ‘friends’ and ‘loosely connected strangers’. Maybe we really need to re-define our criteria for making friends online, though not necessarily in the way quoted above (unless you really have a lot of free time). Only with a clear set of criteria in mind can we really make more friends and strengthen our existing friendship on Facebook.

So you just added me as a friend on Facebook. But are we friends?