Sunday, June 22, 2008

Problems with "People You May Know"

I am a little disgruntled with Facebook's "People You May Know" function. First and foremost, I am often unable to discern if I know the people who show up on the side of my screen -or not. Being terrible at faces and not much better with names, I can't tell if I am actually acquainted with one out of the three people who show up on the side of my screen; or if we just by some coincidence -same college, same home town, etc- happen to have enough of the same friends to warrant a place in each other's "People You May Know" category.

Perhaps even worse than that are the people I do happen to recognize. Facebook and other social networking tools are good for reconnecting with people; or even just reestablishing some sort of a bond with them, however tenuous and superficial it is. Instead of actually making contact, we now keep track of them by way of shared photo albums and status updates. But the people from our past we have friended or were friended by were people who made some sort of impression. They were our school friends, crushes, or someone we wish we had gotten to know better. We had to remember their names, or actively search for and hope to recognize them among the network. There was a bit of effort involved.

Now, there are people showing up on the side of my screen of whom I have the vaguest memories, who I would never seek out on my own to talk to or friend. These people hold no interest for me. They do not inspire me to press the "friend" button on the side of the screen. Then, I feel guilty for not wanting to friend them because they have done nothing deserving of the snub. And some people are people I do have a greater grasp of, but who I don't really have any inclination to friend; sometimes I don't even like them. But now, every time I sign on to Facebook, I see their faces asking me to recognize them and friend them. And it causes a weird kind of anxiety. I am in all probability showing up under their "People You May Know" function; if I am, and if neither one of us sought the other out, do we have an obligation to friend simply because we knew each other? Are we committing some sort of social faux pas if we don't, like walking in the opposite direction when we see someone we recognize in the grocery store?

Ultimately, I can't help but feel as if friending someone should take some form of effort, and less of a need for antacids, than the current "People You May Know" function provides. Friendships, even superficial ones, need a level of involvement, of actual positivity. I should not feel pressured into friending someone, or worry that someone felt pressured via electronic probability into friending me. There is enough anxiety involved in accepting a friendship of someone you either don't know or don't know well -or possibly don't even like. Adding it to the other end as well seems more than a little sadistic.

1 comment:

MediaMaven said...

I never thought of my name appearing on the "People You May Know" feature and people feeling obligated to friend. That explains the rash of friend requests I've gotten from people I've had one conversation with back when I was 12. At some point I figured friending, in certain circumstances, was based out of curiosity, but why would I be interested in being friends with people I don't even know, that I barely remember talking to? I tend to just leave them sitting in my inbox, unable to figure out what to do with the requests.