Monday, June 21, 2010

Social networking ethics

Not until the evolution of Internet and social networking, relationships among human beings has never been much closer. We are no longer bound by physical distance so what become important is the amount of contact between our besties and us.

Some undesirables are lurking around, social networking are just their platform to it. Recent changes in Facebook interface must have delighted some and displeased others. Why? Stalking people has never been much easier! Twitter works on a different mechanics and let everyone becomes celebrities.

Twitter doesn't give you much control of who follows you unless you keep your tweets private or block the annoying account. So it's a world of I stalk you and you stalk me. This is what Twitter meant it to be.

Friendster and now Facebook work on adding people as your friends (technically, 1st degree friend). They also let you know mutual friends and networks.

Everyone is free to add anyone as their friend, at the same time there is a check of accepting or rejecting friend requests. So, listen to what I have to say. You are holding the authority to choose whether to accept and form a relation.

I must say most people will accept friend requests from strangers without further consideration. It's just in a click! But, there are consequences that follow from an acceptence of a friend request. By accepting a request, you are:
  • Putting faith in the person so that he/she will contribute to a healthy relation with you.
  • Granting the person the freedom to interact with you (write on wall, send message)
  • Giving the person the authority to access information about you.
  • Giving the person the authority to know what's happening between you and your friends, by watching ongoing conversations (wall posts).
  • Giving the person the authority to interact with your direct friends (view profile, add friend)

Note that I've emphasised on authority. So, you see, your act of accepting a friend request doesn't just affect you. As I've said, if you're concerned that a stranger will annoy you later, don't approve the request. Depending on privacy settings, some people won't let you add them as friend unless you're in his/her second degree. But stalkers can circumvent this by just adding a friend of his and gain a foothold.

These practices I find rather detestable:
  1. Adding large amounts of friends to increase friend count. This is called friend collecting or friend whoring.
  2. Adding people because he/she is a mutual friend, albeit technically but in real, don't have a relationship.
  3. Repeated friend requests over short time frame because request got rejected.

Some people, wanting to look popular so they add strangers randomly to increase friend count. What's the point of 1000+ friends but you don't actually know them? Furthermore people are more likely to accept friend request when there's a mutual friend. That's how these friend collectors gain a foothold into social circles. Mutual friend by itself isn't the case, I can ignore if I don't see fit.

For famous people (maybe you're pretty and hot!), you have many direct friends in Facebook not because you actively add them, but you accept friend requests based on loose criteria. Among these "friends", likely there'll be gossipmongers and stalkers, with the bonus of direct access to your info! From time to time, I actually screen my friend list and remove people I hardly know.

There's a grey area for adding friend because you find him/her physically attractive. I wouldn't want to kill your networking spirit but I am against unhealthy practices. You can try sending a message and you should get a reply after at most two messages. Anything beyond that is crossing the boundary.

Remember each of us occupy a different position in the social world. Your actual position is determined by where you are and who you are. This very position will determine where we belong and interactions we are allowed to have, so the place you study or work will determine the people you mingle and amount of contact allowed. Sometimes stuff you wouldn't conscious of like places of origin or nationality will shape your "eligibility" to interact with people. To be frank I wouldn't be comfortable with people who came out of nowhere and add me.

So, what's the ultimate truth about relationship with people?

My pastor has preached that revelation is best at fresh and we should have a direct relationship with God. In other words, let us be our own priests. The same goes with relationship between people so let us be 'priest' to our friend. Relationship with people is best at first hand. The notion of mutual friend actually conveys nothing. As per the principle, don't use other people as conversation fodder and refrain to manipulate other people to 'repair' relationships. Each person has his/her own autonomy, each relation is independent of each other in some sense. So you are personally responsible for each relationship you maintain.

But I warn you, when you hurt a person, you are touching the person's friends, relatives, associates and ultimately, God. What matters to an individual matters to the network.

I am no different from any other person and I've learnt the hard way too. I can give you this is the result of years of observation and listening around on what others have to say.


  1. Hmm... times change me. At first i'd play Facebook poker and accept friend requests from there. Then i stopped doing that and screened requests by first checking mutual friends to establish position and then might proceed to sending them a message to ask them who they are. Normally would kindly reject people who say things like "Found u on Facebook, Can we be fren?". Hahahah

    But i dont screen friends, and i dont clean up. I have a no delete policy where i dont delete people from my Facebook friends, neither do i delete people from my phone book or msn...