After last week’s entry about poets attempting to add me on Facebook without permission, a pal commented underneath asking my reasons for not wanting friend requests there. What was intended to be a two-line answer turned into more of an essay. So breaking away from our usual theme of prose and poetry, here it is presented as a footnote to that entry.
In mid-March of last year, just before the virus took a grip, I removed someone from my Facebook friends list. I couldn’t recall the last time we’d spoken, and I wasn’t particularly engaged in what he was posting; I suspect one of us had added the other after a gig.
Within maybe a couple of hours, he’d sent a message asking, ‘Why did you unfriend me?’ which went into the Requests section of Messenger so I was able to ignore it. He then found one of my few public posts and left a comment that he was ‘genuinely concerned’ about me. I told him I was fine, thank you, and left it there. He promptly asked me again why I’d removed him.
When you take someone off your list, Facebook doesn’t tell the other party, so he either must have been checking manually or using third-party software. Either way, I was previously indifferent about the guy; now, I found him creepy. I talked to some other pals about what to do and I ended up hitting the good old Block button.
That’s an extreme example, but it put other contacts under the spotlight. There had always been that contingent who, for example, jumped at every dog whistle in the news or parroted what they’d heard without knowing what they were talking about. There was also a contingent of people who would be a great laugh in real life, then act like an idiot online.
Then when the virus hit, these small and manageable annoyances amplified to a level where I couldn’t tolerate them, particularly those spreading medical misinformation, knowingly or not.
And that’s how and when my no-nonsense policy started. I made a decision to reject all friend requests, placing a clear note in my public profile, which either hasn’t been read or has been ignored many times. Either way, I don’t feel bad about declining, as the warning is there.
I specifically pick on Facebook here. I’ve been using the Internet since 1995, back when it was a lawless place – literally, in a number of ways. The relatively small group of users were expected to make connections across the miles.
Facebook was probably the first site to group users geographically and to restrict access from those outside that group. This made it much harder to cultivate a friends list, so you were effectively stuck with those also in your area. No other major site, as far as I’m aware, ever had that restriction.
That policy has eased off over the years to the extent where you can follow someone without being friends, or be friends and mute their posts, yet there is still an unwritten expectation of mutual following. There are many philosophies on the matter, but in my own view, I don’t want to be friends with someone if I wouldn’t read their updates.
That’s not to say people can’t be friends with me at all. For a start, they’re welcome and encouraged to follow the Hotchpotch open-mike page, which is designed to be public. Folks can also find me (and Hotchpotch) on Twitter, but there should be no expectation of mutual following.