Will you be my Friend?

Facebook FriendsI have a profile on Facebook. I don’t spend a lot of time there; mostly playing the Scrabble clone Scrabulous, actually. (I’m winning one game thanks to “zit” on a triple word score; the other is heading for a photo-finish.) And seeing what my friends are up to.

I’m not doing the free-for-all friends thing. I’m only adding people who I actually know. People I’ve had real two-way interaction with at some stage in my life. Which probably doesn’t include most of the people reading this blog post.

I’m afraid I just don’t buy the idea of adding anybody who pops up requesting it.

In October the BBC reported results of an experiment: they created a fictitious Facebook user called Amba Friend, and sent friend requests to 100 random Facebook users. 35 said yes, and ones details were used by the BBC investigating team to open a bank account and credit card in his name. Which worked.

Computer security company Sophos did a similar experiment back in August, with 87 of 200 happily adding Sophos’s toy frog “Freddi Staur” as their friend. Sophos posted guidelines for protecting your privacy on Facebook, which is well worth reading.

Obviously it highlights the dangers of putting too much of your personal life (or at least, your details) online. Hell, I’m wary about putting my birth date online — though it’s not excessively hard to find. My address? Nup, no way.

Not that I really believe anybody is going to try identity fraud on me via Facebook.

But I’m not doing the whole “whoever has the most friends wins” thing. If we’ve actually met, if we’ve actually spoken, if we’ve actually had some kind of meaningful two-way interaction then great, I’ll add you! (I might even go looking for you — I’m pretty curious about what some of my old school and uni friends are up to.)

Otherwise nup. Don’t feel offended; it’s not that I don’t like you. I just don’t know you… and that’s not how I’m using Facebook, sorry.

But hey, I’m sure there’s plenty of other random people out there you can add. Amba Friend and Freddi Staur, for a start.

I don’t indulge in MySpace. Call me an old man if you like, but it’s too loud for me. Oh dear. Do I have an Old Man’s attitude to social networking?

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “Will you be my Friend?”

I’m much the same – although I do include people I know fairly well online through sites other than Facebook.

I was just looking for Scrabble images when your blog popped up, but I’m always ready for a new friend–or relative, as the case may be. Probably just a coincidence that your name is the same as my older brother’s, and nearly the same as my great-grandfather who passed away 100 years ago Friday. Any idea if your Bowen line goes back to Ireland? One side of mine came to usa via Australia.

My only exposure to myspace and facebook has been a couple of nslookups so I can ban their servers from my network, thereby preventing our staff (nationally) from using them at work… that’s it baby…!

I’m the same, or at least I think I am. I have over 100 friends, which have to be people I know. Weird because I didn’t think I knew that many people. Only 1 is family too!

Hmm. I’ve knocked back a couple of people I don’t know.
I’ve also checked now and my privacy setting in facebook is higher than the default setting.

It wasn’t easy to change either!

Oh yes good old Facebook.

Well I finally signed up after realising it was going to be the only way to keep up with photos of a couple of overseas friends.

I used my alias as I didn’t really want to be ‘found’, and as it is already I get too many pokes and so forth.

I do spend a lot of time on the computer, but Facebook really isn’t where I want to be. I mean I can’t even be bothered logging in to get the pokes or messages on my ‘funwall’.

I started a MySpace page to see what all the Gen Y-ers were talking about. It’s messy and competitive. I’d been ignoring Facebook invites until one day I gave in and had a go. Although there’s a lot of junk there too, it has more to hold your interest (I agree on the Scrabulous), and surprising I have genuinely kept up with people in my friends list.

As for privacy, totally agree with you Daniel that you do need to keep some control of what info about you is in the public domain. But then maybe it’s because we’re not Internet spring chickens… we made many of our personal connections when there were only a handful of us online. It seemed safer because the online community was smaller.

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