The “Only If We’re Offline Friends” Rule

July 20, 2010

I'm active on a LOT of social/sharing webapps: Twitter, Flickr, Foursquare, Tumblr, and to a lesser degree, FriendFeed, Delicious and Buzz. While most of my posts are public and open to everyone, on Foursquare and Facebook*, I only accept friend requests from people who I know and hang out with offline. Still, I feel bad refusing friend requests from people who listen to TWiG or read Lifehacker or this blog simply because I don't know them. What I really want, on every social network, is an optional friend request auto-responder, so that I could make it read, "You seem nice and I'm glad you want to be friends with me, but I only accept friend requests/follow back people I know offline. Sorry." (My Facebook page is open to the public, it's my personal profile that's offline-friends-only.)

I completely understand where you’re coming from. This is the rule I’ve lived by since I joined Facebook back in 2005. Of course, I’m sure I get way fewer requests form people I don’t know than you do, Gina.

ZLoether [+17]
Jul 20 10 at 2:54 pm

Seems pretty understandable to me.

I turn down a lot of LinkedIn requests, on much the same basis. If I haven’t met them in “meatspace,” it’s rather a reach to say that I “would endorse them professionally.”

Linking too promiscuously has its problems. I don’t think any of the systems have this quite right… As individuals, we exist in a number of roles, often including:

- Direct family unit
- Broader family relations
- Employment environment
- Professional associations
- Multiple sometimes-intersecting sets of friends

There are different kinds and levels of intimacy that are appropriate for each. There are more recent kinds of relationships that get more abstruse:

- People I play some online games with
- People whose blogs I might read

Social networking updates often run pretty slipshod across all those kinds of relationships.

Good for you Gina! I generally approve most friend requests on FB specifically to share blogs/bits of writing I do. I still need to find an equilibrium there… Basically, I try to keep my private life separate from my online life, aside from a few hilarious anecdotes I share back and forth ;-)

Isaiah Roberts

This is exactly why Facebook should give users greater control over who can and who can’t see updates. Lists aren’t really enough. Something like Gmail filters, in reverse, would be really cool. Based on the content only the people you intend to see a post about, for example, seeing a movie on the weekend but everyone else would only see the latest book you found that was cool or your latest blog post.

mikecarlucci.me/ [+2]
Jul 20 10 at 3:58 pm

I accept everyone that doesn’t look like a scam artist but hide them in the feed so that it’s essentially the same as them following me on buzz or twitter. The one thing I wish facebook would do is force friend requests to include a personal message. I never request someone that I don’t personally know without introducing myself, but I recieve many without an explanation.

Jeremy Couch [+1]
Jul 20 10 at 4:04 pm

I understand where you are coming from, I will admit though when I follow someone and I am not followed back some where inside me is a 6 year old who gave out a valentine and didn’t get one back, the six year old inside me wants to cry

This is exactly the right way to handle it. Not only to protect your privacy, but it also makes the likes of Facebook much more useful and fun if you’re only seeing updates from people you care about – and you feel more free to make updates yourself because it’s semi-private.

One of the things that’s always urked me a bit about Leo’s attitude to Facebook as this his experience is entirely one sided, so he’s never seen how different it is when it’s just a group of people you know, rather than random fans.

Dom [+6]
Jul 20 10 at 4:29 pm

I used to do this — refuse all people I really don’t know in “real world”. But I noticed this act limit discussions, so, I created a list for unknow/readers on Facebook and, since then, I add those people on it. Thanks to Facebook privacy controls, I’m able to avoid unknown people who’s my friend (that sounds weird) to access personal content.

[]‘s!

Rodrigo Ghedin
Jul 21 10 at 3:52 am

Could you direct me or tell me how to make my Facebook page open to the public, and keep the personal profile offline-friends-only.
Thnx Walter

Speaking of twit, there is a new android app which will give you the *live* audio feed form twit

http://www.appbrain.com/app/com.TwitForAndroid

(As opposed to the mediafly apps which only gives you the podcasts)

Sterlingwit [+10]
Jul 22 10 at 4:17 pm

I have an addition restriction, I don’t accept friend requests from people I’m currently working. No because I don’t befriend them, it’s just less complicated. I share pictures I take directly from my computer, I send stuff via email or other forms.

So maybe i’m weird, but it’s worked for me.

Just had to laugh as I saw this post come up in google reader. Just recently I opened latitude on Android, and guess who came up as a suggested friend.

Jeremy [+1]
Aug 8 10 at 11:37 pm


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