Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Facebook: To Friend or Not To Friend

The other day, we had dinner with one of our "real" friends, who also happens to be a Facebook friend. We got into a discussion about the do's and don't's of "friending."

It is quite a minefield. For example, what about friending your children? Some children don't want their parents friending them, as it makes them feel like they're being spied on. Others don't mind--but please, please don't try to act like a real friend by making comments, etc. on their FB pages! All that does is expose them to ridicule from their adolescent FB friends.

(The Curmudgeon's children have allowed us "in"--we try to be respectful. We can't understand most of the lingo in the comments on their pages anyway.)

Clear taboo: don't friend friends of your children. They'll think it's creepy, and maybe it is.

Other categories get even dicier. Our friend--the real one--is a senior faculty member at a medical university, and he also treats patients. He's gotten friend requests from both students and patients, both of which make him uncomfortable. We agreed that patients are a pretty clear no-no. Students are a closer question--probably depends on what you feel comfortable with. At a minimun, he shouldn't initiate either form of such contact!

What about co-workers? Co-workers fall into all kinds of different categories, the most awkward of which are those you directly supervise. Can you be "friends"? Again, probably depends on what you're comfortable with. (Since the Curmudgeon no longer has co-workers, it's a purely theoretical issue for us; but, we probably would've been ok with FB friending co-workers in the past.)

Of course, there's old boy and girlfriends. But if you can't friend them on FB, then what's the fun? Just make sure you keep them as FB friends only.

Our general rule is that we'll accept a friend request from anyone we actually know. Sometimes it's someone we've met fairly recently, but that's an opportunity to test out a potential new "real" friendship.

We have gotten friend requests--on the rare occasion--from people we don't know. We generally turn those down, unless we can find some valid connection. Sometimes, it's just a case of mistaken identity. Other times, who knows--FB is a friendly place, but there are always a few bad apples out there, FB stalkers.

You can also--with some time and trouble--work out your FB privacy settings to give some friends more access than others. We kind of wish there was a way to subcategorize (maybe there is, for all we know) your FB friends. Like "true friends," "family," "acquaintances," "co-workers," and other.

With a little effort, we've gotten most of our family to join FB, and it's proven a good way to keep up with each other, share photos and exchange information. Still, there are times when we wonder--what does mom think about all this!

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