• #83
    Jul 26, 2008

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    Social ConnectionsFacebook is changing the way our culture interacts within itself more intrinsically than any other social networking site. Its appeal spans the reach of the niche sites; its control of commercialism keeps the environment clean and personal. It grabs appeal from more than just the MySpace crowd with its intuitive innovations (even if borrowed), consistent format, and levels of privacy controls.

    It’s the new soda fountain after school, expanded water cooler circle between 9 and 5, and the high school reunion on eternal tour. You can communicate with other Facebookers via private message (email), confidential instant messaging, public postings, status reports, and photo feedback. With its virtual life hub, it combines and connects so many types of interaction that it’s making other solitary forms of correspondence less necessary.

    With the new dynamics of communication comes new definitions of the relationships that develop on Facebook. I’m just bold enough to categorize them. Ironically, we are probably many or all of these to different members on our friends list. With 285 [at time of writing] Facebookers linked to me, I’ve found a good core sample to mine some universal stereotypes you can use to sort your own drop down list.

    The Backwater Bandit
    You’re going through your friends list and see someone you can’t believe is on the list. “How the heck did they get here?” or worse: “Who is this?” Senility strikes the young, too. Before you check into sabotage conspiracies, realize that the criteria we use to accept friends changes the more and different people comprise our respective lists.

    The Time Traveler
    You have not talked to these folks in years, maybe decades. That being the case, you may not have ever had a substantive conversation with these people. You might not now. But your mutual desire for the “Where are they now?” links you for the world to wonder, “How do those two go together?” The Facebook Way Back Machine lets them catch up with you on their terms, their schedule. They can absorb as much as they want and only as much as they want—unlike a class reunion.

    The Bonus Buddy
    You didn’t talk to this guy much, if at all, in college or that gal in high school. But you guys are regular knuckleheads on Facebook. Now you’re in more than just the same life stage with similar reflections, senses of humor, and interests. It’s a new friend recycled from an old acquaintance—like that comfortable Goodwill shirt you wear on Saturdays around the house. Sometimes, your spouse’s friends fall in this category.

    The Brady Bunch
    You were friends with this guy or gal and hung out with them in a family setting. You know the whole gang; you like them all—most, anyway. If you saw any of their sibs or parents in the grocery store, you’d say, “Hey!” You may even get honorary inclusion in a family holiday. You wouldn’t call them long distance except to set up a surprise birthday party for your friend, but you’re comfortable Facebooking each other.

    The Poster Child
    You had no idea. You wonder if they have a clue. They’re posting content that is vulgarly offensive, racially derogatory, overly political, uncomfortably religious, sexually inappropriate, etc. Now it makes interactions outside of the ‘book a little more guarded or awkward. They don’t fit the status quo of your typical friend filter, because you didn’t know this about them when you clicked “accept.” But you can’t excommunicate them, due to extenuating circumstances. You just hope they don’t share on your wall or blast a comment that’d disqualify you later from a run for public office.

    The Cool Memory
    You met these people on vacation, at a rally, or at a wedding. They were cool. It was good conversation, and you’d probably be friends if your paths crossed more often. On Facebook they can and do. You might never see them again in person, but you’ll hang onto their Facebook friendship as long as they do.

    The Dilbert
    You put up personal pictures at work; so, it’s not a stretch to allow work mates into your Facebook circle. Some are even your real life, happy-hour buddies. There comes a day, though, when you realize everything on your profile is available to them. You can’t give them only limited profile access, because this is office politics or united underground in motion. You either guard everything you post as aggressively as the new security guard at the mall, develop a second Facebook account with your middle name for your friends, or relinquish your rights to discreetness.

    The Captains Choice
    It’s the golf outing guy, the BNI newbie, the representative from one of your vendors. They’re trying to network; so are you. You may not have actually conversed much more than exchanging business cards. Worse yet, they may be part of your professional association; and you just want to be connected—in case anyone else is paying attention. But now you can’t delete them after your peek into their personals, because you’re afraid it’ll look bad or get noticed by the movers and shakers to whom they’re connected.

    The Face in the Crowd
    You have no clue who these people are; but they go to your school, your church, or your convention. They know people who know you—maybe even some of your closest Facebookers. So, you figure they can’t be nefarious; in a moment of weakness, you click that “accept” button. When they start posting weird crap or typing cryptic status updates, you regret this almost enough to 86 them from the list.

    The Spouse
    No, not the one you are just short of legally required to include as your friend—this is the Facebooking wife of one of your internet-phobic pals. You can’t reach him other than with old school media like email, phones (maybe only a land line), snail mail, or carrier pigeons. It feels weird to ask this member of the opposite gender to be your friend on the solo, but the satellite relationship is too important to fuss with the rules of engagement. Sometimes, the spouse is more careful or proper than your friend; especially when sending messages through them, you have to be on your best behavior.

    The Two-Headed Monster
    Couples sharing a Facebook . . . a flat out enigma. They typically hyphenate their first names together, like “John-Sarah,” stopping just short of tabloid amalgamations like “Brangelina” and “Bennifer.” You can usually tell which half of the equation is doing more of the maintenance and communication, but there’s enough of both to make things awkward.

    The Band Wagoneer
    These guys are part of a (fringe) group or cause on Facebook. That entity holds such a strong sway over you, that you extend a welcome mat: “my face’ is your face’.” You are a dumb butt. But thankfully, they don’t know you, either, and probably won’t embarrass you in any other forum but the group/cause/fan page you share in common.

    The Charity Case
    This is different from the person you’re trying to get started on Facebook by introducing to new people or referring mutual friends. “I don’t want them to feel rejected.” This person may have a bevy of friends, but you all know you’re all just being nice.

    The Inner Circle
    Your best friends in non-virtual life—can’t get enough of them (or they don’t share your same mobile phone carrier and its free mobile-to-mobile minutes). This is just one more place they can drop one-liners like Robin Williams or relive what just happened (with the real story). These are your partners in crime. They generate the comments in your mini feed that draws the fringes to your content.

    The Blood Line
    You stock your friends list with sibs, parents, cousins—basically anyone in your gene pool. Unlike a family reunion, you can usually avoid the uncomfortable ones, since they aren’t looking for you over here, either. If you’re distanced geographically like I am, Facebook lets you stay in touch without figuring out everybody’s schedule and gathering at Mom and Dad’s house. Plus, you can spend your live get togethers talking and eating rather than sitting through slide shows.

    The Stalker
    You are afraid to say “no” to them, or you don’t have a good excuse when they ask you about the invitation they sent. You hope they don’t start virtually following you online or pestering people who comment on your stuff.

    And those not on your Facebook friends list . . .

    The Conduit
    These folks aren’t actually on your friends list. But they probably know a lot of people that you do. So, you click on their friends list to snag some friend requests without thanking them or accepting their friendship. It’s using people. I do it. There’s no support group for that yet; so, I’ll probably continue as long as you do.

    The Withering Vine
    They’ve asked to be your friend, but you’re not sure you want to do that. So, you leave their friend request in your notification box for weeks on end. You eventually figure they understand, or you grow to not care. Whether you accept them or not, it’s usually a compulsive decision a month from now.

    The John Smith
    You will never find them. There are 394 people with their names in the system. You have to hope they find you or a mutual friend. I read an article that said, in China, the quantity of last names is equivalent to all of the citizens in Japan and the US sharing 5 last names. Welcome to Facebook China! It won’t get any better.

    The Unbeliever
    “I can’t believe they’re not on Facebook yet.” This isn’t as much a big deal, if you never would have seen them anyway. College was good, but it can’t be a frat party forever. Don’t worry: you’ll bump into them at a rest stop in Utah during a vacation with your grandkids. Your local friends say they “don’t have time for Facebook.” Yet they have time to burn your text message plan quota.

    The Pedestal
    You know who they are. They were a caste or more above you in high school, college, or Green Peace. They were probably better looking, richer, more athletic, cooler, and/or more connected than you were. So now, even though you’re probably on more of an even playing field, you’re not in their circle. The time machine can’t go back, and all you’ll know of their life now is their miniature profile picture or occasional comment on a mutual (former middle-caste) friend’s content.

    The Small Face
    “I can’t tell if that’s her!” The small profile picture and poor photo composition keeps you from requesting or accepting a friendship. “I’m not sure who that is. Honey, is this one of your college girl friends?” “I don’t recognize the name. I can’t tell.”

    The Skeleton
    Be it an ex-girlfriend or that high school buddy your wife can’t stand, you have to keep these folks away from public connection. You can send them benign messages through their boxes on your mutual friend’s friends list, whereas sending them personal notes in real life might invite a private investigator or divorce attorney—marriage counselor at least. There’s no relationship to hide, just a morbid curiosity—maybe even some schadenfreude. Facebook allows both parties a guided escort through each other’s limited profile long enough to know your life is better than it could have been if things had things “worked out.”

    The Contestant
    One dude asked to be my friend. I answered with my typical, “How do I know you?” “You don’t. I just want friends.” That’s bold. Still doesn’t earn a hole in the firewall, but it’s pretty much a social networking site-only phenomenon.

    Stock image used by permission through purchase from iStockPhoto.com.
    This entry was posted on Saturday, July 26th, 2008 at 11:00 am and is filed under Random Acts of Ryan. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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