On Befriending Acquaintances

Why I won't Facebook-friend you

Published on . Takes about 2 minutes to read.

Technological advances during the last ten years have significantly changed my definition of the word “friend”.

An acquaintance - someone I hadn’t spoken to in years - sent me a friend request on Facebook, out of the blue. I’m all for renewing old relationships and starting new ones, but I generally won’t allow people into my (online) life very easily.

Why I Abstain From Friending

Part of the reason is that I’m paranoid: Facebook is a huge attack surface for gathering personal information and poor security hygiene from my “connections” will backfire onto me.

Another part is privacy: not everyone need to know how my trip went or what I ate for lunch.

And finally - people have managed to socialize fine for thousands of years without the Internet - Facebook should be seen as an additional, not a primary channel for connection.

Who Is a “Friend”?

The lines between strangers (against whom mothers warn you about), acquaintances (that guy from the CS department) and friends (who’ll answer the phone at 4am and tell you everything will be OK) has become blurred.

How does one define the word friend? Looking at the average number of friends people have in Facebook, I’d say the term is quite broad… yet research shows that we can have healthy and enduring ties to at most 150 people and completely trust only a handful.

Quite simply put, a “friend” is someone I trust and interact to on a regular basis. (S)he’ll keep my privacy (although Facebook makes this so troublesome that it’s actually sensible to pay for being informed) and thoughts. And trust… is earned with time. Faith is not something you immediately have for someone you met in a bar last night.

People take befriending online way too easily and are then hurt when irony happens. Another metaphor: would you have unprotected sex on the first date?

When I didn’t accept her invitation to connect, she was offended… and I felt bad. This post is my explanation: you’re nice and intriguing. Let’s hang out more and learn to trust one another before rushing to things that should come much later in the relationship.

Facebook feedback survey on friend count

* These thoughts do not apply to professional networking such as LinkedIn or Twitter.