Who’s your friend on Facebook?

Today when I sent a friend request on Facebook to a person, I was met by a dialog asking if we’re really friends.

This got me thinking about what their motivation for this might be, and my first thoughts were:

  • This means a lot of people are using Facebook “wrong” in their eyes
  • People have gotten tired of tons of friend requests (lucky them)
  • Friend requests is not for making new friends – just nurture existing ones
  • The definition seem to be that you have friends in real life, and digital is only an extension of that
  • The person I sent a friend request to is someone fairly well-known on the tech scene, so maybe it’s some protection against that

Breaking this down:

Doing it wrong?

I both get friend requests from, and send requests to, people who I might not know personally (or in some cases, not at all). And in some cases, these have become the best friends. I’ve gotten to know so many great people and friends through the web/a digital medium – some who I’ve been lucky to then meet in person, some I still haven’t.

It also seems that Facebook has become a sort of Rolodex with connections for people, throughout their life. Almost everyone are on Facebook, some reluctantly, so it is more or less a de facto place to find people, friends long lost and more.

Nurture existing friends

I love making new friends and reconnecting with old ones alike! Given how Facebook begun, and how it has evolved, seems to be that it’s much more a platform of connecting new people than just a connection with close friends (actually, for me, some of my close friends and I have virtually no interaction on Facebook, but rather in other contexts).

And what’s really the definition of “know this person personally”, anyway? That we must have known each other five years? Or met 100 times? Got drunk together? Slept together?

People You May Know

It also doesn’t seem to rhyme well with their People You May Know feature, suggesting mutual friends and more. Sometimes it’s a match, but the majority of the time, they are complete strangers. Only connection is a possible mutual friend.


It could also be that I sent a friend request to someone fairly well-known on the tech scene, but we have 18 mutual friends so it would be fairly ok to assume we have some connection.

Seems to me that a possibility is that famous people have gotten tired of lots of friend requests so it’s a way to keep them in.

Just make friends

To me the Internet is amazing for making new friends, and staying in touch with old ones – especially if there are geographical reasons and similar behind you’re not being able to meet in person – so I’d encourage everyone to keep on using it just like that.

So, who is really your friend on Facebook? Anyone you want!


  • I believe, in my very humble opinion, that Facebook is not really for nurturing existing friendships, but rather for breaking them down. Your old classmate from school who just won’t shut up about what she had for breakfast? Ya, you hate her guts now. That old colleague who keeps posting weird, slightly rasist political statements every so often? Unfriended, on Facebook, and in real life.

    I’m so very happy with my life since I shut my Facebook account down! 😀

    • Robert Nyman says:

      Ha ha, as long as you’re happy! 🙂
      I think it can go both ways, though. To make sure you stay remotely in touch/know what’s happening in your friend’s life, although you can never meet in person.

      Or, that you find out some personality “treats”, like racism, and then you’re aware of that.

      But definitely, whichever way works for anyone for making and keeping friends, go with it!

      • Teylor Feliz says:

        That is my case. For example, I liive in the US but most of my friends and family live in the Dominican Republic. Facebook is the only way to keep in touch with all of them without the need to make a telephone call or email to all each one.

  • Lucian says:

    That’s the reason Sublevel doesn’t have friend requests. Instead, it relies on equal distribution of following and followers count. Having freedom is better, having no request annoyances is even better.

    • Robert Nyman says:

      Well… Personally, I prefer to choose, and possibly, reject friends myself. I think it varies a lot, but I believe that most people on Facebook don’t get tons of friend requests.

  • Karl says:

    We haven’t met yet, but happy to have your acquaintance on Facebook. We should celebrate this, my first blog comment in many, many years when we do finally meet lol. A gig at London O2 sometime perhaps? It’s gotta be AC/DC soon?

  • Axel Hecht says:

    Disclaimer, I deleted my facebook account a long time ago, which allows me to be cynical.

    Facebook’s asset is people’s data. There’s the stuff you tell about yourself (like AC/DC stuff, etc). On top there’s the stuff algorithms can make up based on your connections.

    That value of the stuff they reason is pretty dependent on understanding the semantics of your links to other people.

    Rob being Rob, his connections are likely plenty and have a ton of variety. Which effectively lowers the value of the complete datapool. Like, the best thing they might be able to do is to remove Rob when reasoning about people.

    So I read facebook’s dialog as this:

    Stop breaking our code, and starting adding semantically useful data so that we can finally make some money of of it!

    • Robert Nyman says:

      While I agree that data about users is very important for Facebook (and a lot of other companies out there), I don’t believe one friendship connection would make or break that. And given all that they know about users on Facebook – you just need to look at the targeted ads to get a hint – I’m sure they have plenty already.

  • I like the idea of a site where you need to have slept together. “buksvågrar.se” in Sweden maybe? There doesn’t seem to be an English word for it unfortunately.

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