Can’t you JUST be my neighbor?

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Fred Rogers said it best:

So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Neighbors are fantastic. There’s much appeal in moving up to a better neighborhood, where you have more room and better schools and people like the people you want to be. Good neighbors can be great sounding boards, and are awesome about picking up your mail when you’re on vacation. They do great work on their lawns, and inspire everyone to keep the property values up.

But they don’t have to be your bestest friend.

At the end of the day (no trite expression; literally, at the end of the day) neighbors do what neighbors do best. They enter their home, locked away from yours, and they get on with their own lives.

  • Neighbors are the people you share with because of proximity.
  • Friends are the people you share with by mutual choice.
  • Family are the people you share with because you have to.

Thinking About Linking

I’ve been thinking about connections for a while now, and it struck me that way too many people are advocating the creation and embrace of connection without having given thought to the purpose or the consequence. So it became necessary for me to start doing some articulating.

The stimulus turning this vague notion into an immediate impulse to write was cast my way last week. I happened across several declarations that rang of this:

  • “I have embraced openness.”
  • “I’ve changed my view, and I connect with everyone now.”

One question came specifically to me, from Ari Herzog:

@ikepigott If someone wants to be connected to you for whatever the reason, why wouldn’t you want the same?Fri Oct 01 03:40:43 via web

@arikhanson @ariherzog @ginidietrich – I still worry about the implied endorsement. Don’t want my friends duped by expectations.Fri Oct 01 03:45:21 via Mobile Web

Then I realized we needed a better way to describe online connections.

Dilution of Trust

Let’s say I am holding up both fists, and say “Which one holds the penny?” You point to my left hand, which I reveal to be empty. I put both hands behind my back, shuffle, and repeat the question. You fail again. Repeat, Fail.

After a while, you might start to question whether I even have a penny. (Try it with a five-year-old… you can keep them busy for hours.)

How likely are you to want to “play” with me when you find out I have nothing but empty palms for you? My little prank, however fun, has served to dilute the trust we had with one another, that I was dealing fair. Extrapolate that to the business world and personal relationships, and you can see there’s a bit of a problem.

Now, instead of playing “guess-the-penny,” let’s talk about who we “know.” The results you get are different among various social networks, because of the rules of the networks themselves, and the expectations the users bring. Networks shape users. Users shape networks.

Different Playbooks

The context of this question started with Gini Dietrich (or @ginidietrich of the very awesome Spin Sucks) asking about LinkedIn, so let’s begin there.

@arikhanson If someone sends you a LinkedIn invite that isn’t personalized and you can’t place how you know them, do you accept it?Fri Oct 01 02:50:05 via Echofon

Now back to the questions Ari posed:

@ikepigott If someone wants to be connected to you for whatever the reason, why wouldn’t you want the same?Fri Oct 01 03:40:43 via web

@ikepigott How is your “endorsement” of someone in a FB/LI network different than your following 1800 tweeps? @arikhanson @ginidietrichFri Oct 01 04:14:13 via web

There are a couple of problems here.

First, we’re assuming that User B (the invited) will have the same goals and aspirations as User A (who extended the invite.) I know of several companies that would like to create a relationship with me for the express purpose of selling me something. Am I being anti-social if I use an ad-blocker on my browser?

Beyond that, however, we have other issues. Some of those networks, like Facebook and LinkedIn, have been for the most part a double-opt-in network. We agree mutually to link to each other. In the case of Twitter, we have asynchronous agreement. I follow you, and you don’t have to follow me back. Also, we’re seeing a lot of flux in how those networks treat information. What seemed like a good idea one day might not be the next. But the relationships you have, however loose they might be, can be dragged into a different context.

Shifting Rules

For instance, LinkedIn has already announced an initiative called Signal that will radically alter its classification as a double-opt-in (Synchronous) network. Signal will take all of the LinkedIn status updates and make them searchable across the system. And when I say searchable, we’re talking cross-tabbed and cross-indexed operators that let you look for keywords mentioned in certain geographic areas by people in specific industries or companies. That’s huge, because now I can find very specific immediate expertise, sliced and diced the way I want it. I don’t have to be a 3rd-level connection with some guy at some company somewhere else.

{{{Side note: if LinkedIn is smart, it will develop an incentive for its users to import their Twitter feeds into LinkedIn. LinkedIn would become the first stop for business-related Twitter searches.}}}

Also, look at what this does to the flip side of that equation. I know that of the 1,600 people I have on my Facebook that I am much closer to some than others. And I freely admit that many I have never met in person. But I can tell you a little something about every one of them, and there was some personal element in the introduction. (“Man, I really liked what you wrote about moving Congress out of D.C. Let’s talk!”) Now, there’s less pressure on me to add a bunch of people. No more using my profile for glorified Cyberspace name-dropping.

What would be disastrous to me is if you met someone linked to me on a social network, dropped my name, and they had no idea who I was. “You know, Chuck! He’s a common Facebook friend!” (crickets.)

If you make a habit of linking completely random people to your profile, you run the risk of diluting your own reputation for the solid connections you really do have. You’ll be known as the guy who cheats with empty fists. And the truth is, you don’t get any advantage for pretending to know more people than you do.

Here’s another example of a recent shift, this time in Facebook.

Backdoor Stalking

Facebook used to be truly two-way, but a piece of that was chipped away when the majority of status updates went public. Now another piece is gone, as part of a new feature called “Not Now.”

Let’s say you I send you a friend request on Facebook. In the past, you’d have an option to Accept, Decline, or just waiting a while. Waiting gets to be annoying when you have dozens of pending requests — it leaves a nagging feeling like you have to get something finished. So Facebook created the Not Now option. With “Not Now,” you’re still deferring the choice to a later time, but the reminder goes away. Also, your public status updates show up in my stream.


Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I tested this with Arik Hanson, who was not yet my friend on Facebook.

I sent him a request, and asked him to give me the “Not Now” treatment.

Then I asked him offline to make some comment about the weather.

As you can see, the status update did show up in my regular timeline, right above Tex Turner’s. If you went to Arik’s page, however, you’d see that my friend confirmation was still in limbo.

So now I don’t have to be your friend for you to get my status updates pushed to you. You just have to ignore me.

Both Facebook and LinkedIn have added a new layer of connection that opens additional possibilities beyond the “we must be mutual buddies” restriction that was always at the base. In this respect, they are both now more “Twitter-like.” Follow if you want, but I don’t have to follow back.

Why Can’t We Be Friendz?

There’s no reason we can’t. But there’s also no reason to assume that we have to run straight to that step. Why not hang around each other first, comment on a couple of things here or there? Or maybe, just maybe write an authentic personalized introduction explaining what we have in common?

Until then, there’s still a lot we can do to share ideas and help each other out. Just by being close.

Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

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  1. Did you see Zuckerberg was added to the NAMBLA Facebook group by Arrington?? It proves your point about not letting just anyone into your private networks.

  2. Reading the post again and through the comments and retweets, I confess a miscommunication somewhere that puts words in my mouth.

    I never said online relationships should be cavalier. I don’t send Linkedin invitations to people I don’t know without changing the default invite text so the person knows why I am writing. If I receive a default invite and don’t recognize the person from his/her experience or connections or recommendations, I reply back and ask who the person is.

    I also don’t send Facebook friend requests to people I don’t know, and frequently write inside the optional message box.

    There is nobody in my linkedin or facebook mutual networks who, like Ike wrote, I can’t describe who or how I know the person. I won’t recommend anyone on linkedin if I don’t know the person.

    Thus…I’m not diluting anything. Considering this entire blog post and assumptions about me are based on Twitter messages, I suggest reading it again with a grain of socialmedia salt.

    • Ari, this went beyond the tweets. Nowhere in your blog post (How Social Media Should Connect Us) did you hint at your method, it was all open.

      Your question to me, “If someone wanted to connect with you, why would you not want to link back?” also doesn’t take into account the motives involved, or the level of familiarity. If that’s a failing of brief Tweets, then so be it. But your post needs some clarification, particularly titled in such a way that hints at providing advice.

      Thanks for doubling back… this subject in particular is worthy of ongoing consideration and scrutiny. Too many premises change for there to be a durable answer.

  3. You are the King! (can I just call you Raj?)

    A few weeks ago you responded to my tweet of this article re preaching this to my students… Yes, its been a while but that is the value of the internet – it waits for everyone.

    As always, good stuff (I think I say that every time I comment) and to answer your tweet, it all resonates. As I tell my students, when you connect, highlight, etc. everything you ultimately connect, highlight, etc. nothing.

    Some of the above disagreement seems to stem from culture, definitions, maturity, experience, etc. but once we get beyond the perceptions/implications of the transaction of connecting I think their remains a false understanding/impression of some kind of implied or informal contractual obligation (honors, rights and privileges?) associated with the connection.

    Here is the rub to all this – the physical act of an online transactional connection seems to me a red herring. At best it is our innate desire to organize or bring order to something which otherwise has no order – the Internet and our (new found) presence within this space.

    I think a future evolution or culture shift will be the acceptance that no matter how hard we try to rope off different areas of the internet in an effort to organize we are still visible in the public eye we are all still playing in the same sandbox online we are all truly connected in some capacity. (If you really want exclusivity wouldn’t you create a members only site, which wasn’t visible to the rest of the world?)

    Looking at it from an almost quantum point of view it really isn’t possible to organize someone into one area when online they reside in multiple locations at the same time.

    Imagine this scenario someone works hard to formally organize all their connections and you are part of that organized lot. Theoretically when they say, “show me all my organized professional connections” all their LinkedIn connections light up. But if they dig a bit deeper and say show me all my organized connections and Ike Pigott all their linked in connections will light up including you but you will also light up all around the internet.

    Add to this a scenario of show me all my organized connections and experts on communications and all connections light up but we see an even larger mosaic of connections (some might argue who all in this scenario would truly light up). I could go on with regard to the futility of trying to organize anything online but will save that for another day.

    Here is the final point. Imagine how long you would spend physically trying to organize and keep organized these connections. Truly, aren’t these hours lost? Isn’t it easier to take an approach of I’m online and you are online and we are connected. How we choose to interact when our paths cross is a completely different topic which we can figure out when or if that ever happens.

    Here is the test if you and I weren’t connected and I reached out to you to ask a favor which you could fulfill would you? If you would and we still aren’t formally connected after the fact aren’t we even more connected than some arbitrary informal agreement? If you needed to find me wouldn’t it be easier to search by what we did (there will be online documentation of this) than by my name or scrolling through a list of connections? Or better yet, if you need help just ask and you might “meet” someone you are already “connected” to.

    I know I haven’t necessarily chosen a side but as my students say, I’m not here to tell them the answer, I’m here to make them think. Speaking of those students, I am sending them here as part of an assignment – “Not who you follow but what you follow”.

    By the way, regarding business cards, I haven’t used any for the last two years. Just seems like kind of a waste unless you have food in your teeth.

    Again, great stuff and thanks for always making me think!

  4. I’m glad someone else made the comment that they use different social media differently. I’m the same way. I follow total strangers and friends alike on Twitter, and if someone gets too posty or too annoying, bosom friend or total stranger, I unfollow them. I don’t have time for it. And if someone follows me, unless they have something of interest to me to say, I don’t reciprocate.
    Now, Facebook is for people I know personally or online in some way. But I will have some depth of knowledge about them when I connect with them. I think there is only one person on my Facebook friends list that I don’t actually know in any way, and I’m probably going to give that person the boot. My hard, fast rule on FB is that no one I work with or even who works for the same company will be added. And that has meant at least on one occasion where I declined a friend request even though I went to grad school with the guy because he works several layers above me at the same company. Sorry, but I need a place where I don’t have to watch every word.
    LinkedIn is where I connect to people I have either worked with or am close enough friends with that I’d recommend their work to others. I wish they’d create a special user type on there for recruiters, because it really gets under my skin when a recruiter I’ve never spoken to contacts me and wants me to convey my endorsement, and it says right there, “Don’t connect with this person unless you know them” because LinkedIn is supposed to be all about being able to trust X because you know Y and Y trusts X. But if X and Y never met and just casually connected, there goes that trust, right out the window. For me, the entire purpose of LinkedIn is negated by this. And I seem to be the only person who feels this way.
    The only place I connect with total strangers and routinely accept friend requests is LiveJournal.

  5. I found this article entertaining, and it had some good points about who you are “associated” with online. However, I think I will stick to my old ways of “friends” online. If I don’t know you or like you, then we are not friends and you should not be let into my personal life. So many people add people just to add people. I can honestly say, except for a handful of people I actually know all 400+ friends I have on my Facebook. I have met them in person, know things about them other than what is listed on their profile, and do not mind them knowing my personal business. I do not use my Social Network for business relations or to gather strangers opinions. I prefer the old fashioned way of looking for jobs or asking people I know for opinions. I know the day may come when I have to post and network, but until that day comes I refuse. I look at social networks as that, I use them to keep up with friends, family, and good acquaintances.

    Katherine Sutherland
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Arts & Sciences

    • Katherine –

      I think you’ll find we’re on the same page. Part of my rant there is about how we need MANY more words to describe these loose relationships, because “friend” is being too over-used.

      Which is why I like “neighbor.”

      Welcome to my neighborhood.

  6. I’ve found that even when sticking to your “own brand” on Twitter, Facebook and any other social networking site, as Leigh Durst put it, those “follow weasels” still rear their ugly heads. When trying to stay on the straight and narrow of social media and follow my rules and rules set by pros such as yourself, it’s tough knowing how to defend myself from these nasty creatures. How should we fight back? Trying to uphold the civil and professional nature of social media is no easy task.

    Thanks for the article.

    L. Taylor Nixon
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

    • No need to “fight back.” Just don’t play their games.

      And anytime you feel the pressure of Expectation or Etiquette, stop and ask yourself who has to live with your accounts.

      Thanks for stopping by…

  7. A couple of months ago, I made a comment to my friend about how I had just reached 200 friends on Facebook. He responded with “You’ve been in college for three years and just now have the many friends on Facebook.” Needless to say, he has more than 700 friends on Facebook. I am a firm believer in adding only the people you know to your Facebook. I could be like him and have 700 friends if I added every single person that I have met in my life, but I would rather keep my Facebook a little more personal than that.

    Also, my Facebook newsfeed already has a lot of statuses from my friends. If I choose to ignore someone’s friend invite, I don’t want Facebook including this person’s status with my already busy newsfeed because then I will have to sort through those to get to the statuses I actually want to read.

    Stephanie Rowe
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

    • No need to worry, Stephanie.

      Let’s say that *I* am some creepy older guy you’ve never met, who is obsessed with coeds in Stillwater. I send you a friend request, because I am impressed you commented on my blog.

      If you do nothing at all, there will be no change in our situation.

      If you reject me outright, there will be no change in our situation.

      If you click the “Not Now” button, *I* would see *your* news in my timeline, but I would not be able to comment. You would still see nothing from me.

      So at no point in time would you be forced to see anything from me if you don’t want to. You can even prevent me from knowing when you’re meeting friends down in the cafeteria.

      Facebook needs to do a much better job of explaining these nuances — especially because (as I proffer in this essay) users are demanding more control and more “flavors” of acquaintance.

      (I was just kidding about being a creepy stalker, okay..?)

  8. I’ll admit I have gone crazy when it comes to accepting friends like Ari–why not be connected with someone? I have since changed my view. Last week I started removing friends on Facebook that I either did not know, do not talk to on a regular basis or have been disconnected with for a while. I deleted about 200 people, and it felt great. I have been told that a true “community” is defined by 150 or less friends. I see that as a hard goal/task to accomplish because I currently have more than 500 friends, but I hope to get closer to that number. The statuses, the posts and the comments I read should be from people I am currently connected with. And on the other side, I only want people who I know reading and commenting on my posts.

    What are your thoughts on an effective community and number of friends correlation?

    Brian Smith
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

    • Brian, it sounds as though you’re referring to the Dunbar Number. I would invite you to read my thoughts on that, specifically the way in which Dunbar’s conclusions are grossly misapplied. (That essay was recently featured in the alumni magazine for the Sauder School of Business.)

      “Effective” ought to be defined by you, and no one else.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      • Ike, I love that article and the topic of Dunbar in general, especially in contrast to Metcalf and Reed.

        Thank you for heavily engaging my students. Fair warning, there are 42 of them and they are not for a lack of words (thank goodness, I can’t imaging the alternate). That being said don’t feel like you have to engage every single one or any for that matter. In fact, I would love it if they would engage each other just a bit (hint, hint to those future commentors…)

        Thanks again for all your support! It is truly appreciated.

  9. Ike, your article really made me think about who my friends are on facebook and who I am allowing to follow me on twitter. I have never accepted a friend request without making sure I had some sort of connection with the person, but I am guilty of accepting simply because the person is a friend of a friend. After reading this article, I’ve realized how important it is to have a legitimate relationship with the people you are allowing to see your profile and engage in your personal life.

    Brian, I completely support your effort to lower the number of friends you have on facebook. I think everyone has it backwards. Many people think the more the better, when in reality, the less means the more personal your relationships will become.

    Great article, Ike!

    Teresa Rogge
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  10. I am a new member of Twitter, therefore, I really feel like I’m engaged with and following people because I’m genuinely interested or acquainted with them. However, I’ve been on Facebook for a long time and not until now has the concept, ‘less is more,’ really occured to me with my Facebook relationships. I am about to tackle my Facebook and really take a look at my friends and what those relationships mean.
    Also, thanks for adding the part about the “Not Now” of Facebook, I noticed the change but wasn’t sure exactly what the “Not Now” meant. I wasn’t aware that people could still read my post, even after “Not Nowing” them.
    Thanks for your great incite!

    Jordan Parsons
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

    • Jordan… keep in mind that if you have your updates/photos/links locked down to “Friends Only,” then people will NOT be able to read your stuff.

      Let’s say I send you a friend request, and you Not Now me.

      If your Facebook is locked down, I won’t see your stuff.

      If your updates/pictures are open, then as you post they will appear on my wall, but I won’t be able to comment on them.

      (At this point, feel free to reply to Facebook, and tell them how much I ought to be paid for explaining their features better than they do…)

  11. Definitely a different take on friends and connections! I like when Ike said, “If you make a habit of linking completely random people to your profile, you run the risk of diluting your own reputation for the solid connections you really do have.” I had never thought of it this way before. Usually I accept anybody if we have mutual friends. I was under the impression that the goal was to have as many friends as you can. But I’m thinking now that the concept of friends is that it is all about quality and not quantity. I, like Brian said in another comment, should start deleting friends that I really don’t know and will probably never know.

    Great post Ike!

    Madison Longust
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

    • I never said you should delete people.

      I said you should be Intentional about what you do.

      Have a plan, a strategy. Do what you do because it meets an Intentional objective.

      Some people WANT to use Facebook for external networking — for them, it’s the how-to-get-to-meet others channel. That’s perfectly legitimate.

      I’m just reminding everyone to pay attention to what they want out of their networks, then behave in a way that supports that goal.

      (P.S. – that’s how businesses should approach Social Media, too.)

      • This is a good point. I personally, and a lot of my friends, first got on Facebook out of high school or younger. Do you think it’s necessary for us to use a different site (such as Linked In) for our professional careers? Is it even possible to separate your different sites for different purposes? In your personal opinion, what is the best site for professional networking, or is it collaborative?

        Anna Smith
        Oklahoma State University
        School of Media and Strategic Communications

        • Anna, I can’t answer that question.

          The feature sets are constantly evolving.

          As a communicator, you need to step back, and not compartmentalize.

          Ask yourself what each network allows you to share, and who with — and where your potential audiences are.

          It’s simply too fluid for me to give you an answer.

  12. I totally understand now. I feel like my intention was to reach a certain number of friends, which really isn’t beneficial to me. I guess I need to think about what is my desired outcome when it comes to social media and act strategically to achieve that outcome.


  13. I really enjoyed reading this!

    I love, love, love Twitter for the reason alone that people can follow you, but you don’t have to follow them. It’s a relief to not have to live up to it. You allow people to know your business or to not. I never post updates on Twitter, I only read them. I love to hear what other people say, but what I have nothing of substance to add, so I don’t.

    I remember signing my dad up for Facebook and he got a friend request from a girl he really didn’t want to be friends with so I told him to decline it (this was before the “Not Now” option). He got scared because he thought it would notify her and he didn’t want to hurt her feelings. I don’t understand why Facebook did change that. I think the “accept/decline” option was much more private.

    I had someone just the other day ask me to be their friend and I didn’t want to and the only option I had was “not now”. His request is still pending as he impatiently awaits my approval. I think that’s worse than a flat out decline. Besides, if you ever want to be that person’s friend, you can still search them.

    I have never been a person that just accepted random friend requests. I think it’s creepy when someone does that. (Even though I do… I like to see people’s pictures.) About once a month I go through my friends list and purge all the people I really don’t care to hear about or see. I know it might sound mean, but to me it’s just clutter and useless status updates.

    Rylie Burns
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  14. A couple of weeks ago I went through my entire friends list on facebook and deleted people that I didn’t know or who I simply just didn’t keep in touch with. It was oddly refreshing to do that because it’s a rather daunting idea to think that 1,000 people could know what I am doing and see updates on my facebook, and I only know roughly half of them personally. I think that the “not now” update is not necessary because if you don’t know if they should be your facebook friend then you probably shouldn’t accept at all. If someone you didn’t know came up to you and asked if they could know all of your personal information and see personal photos of you, you wouldn’t respond “not now.” I would hope you would just “ignore” them.

    Paige Pantlik
    Oklahoma State University
    Strategic Communications

  15. This is a great post and one that I think all Social Media users should read. There is quite a bit of truth when you say to be intentional with our connections online. When I first got a Facebook, I remember accepting requests left and right just because it increased my friend count and I apparently thought that was cool. Now, when I have friend requests, if I don’t recognize the name, I always check to see if we have mutual friends or if there is some genuine common ground between us. I do think that if you know someone or know of someone from a previous encounter or interest, but they may not recognize you, it is always smart and courteous to send a personalized message along with the friend request so as not to be creepy. I have added people on Facebook that I met at events or fundraisers because they are usually people that I want to cultivate a connection with for multiple reasons that most of the time include a potential job connection (I am a college student, after all). When speaking of Twitter, I follow many organizations and businesses that I have a genuine interest in whether it be non-profit organizations, private businesses, local and national news outlets or locally and nationally known opinion/thought leaders. I don’t expect them to follow me back, but that’s the beauty of Twitter. They may or may not see that I followed them, and say, “Well good, she may be interested in what I have to say.” When it comes to just everyday users though, I do not follow or request to follow people of whom I do not know or share any mutual interest/common ground. What’s the point in that? All it does is seem to clog up my timeline and that gets old fast. Thanks for the post and I’ll stop by again!

    Damaris Pierce
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communication

  16. I use both Facebook and Twitter and I enjoy the differences they offer. For me Twitter offers “The Celebrity Factor.” It gives me a chance to connect with famous or important people and no I don’t follow the Kardashians. I follow mainly sports and political people.

    For instance I follow former OKState now Dallas Cowboy receiver, Dez Bryant. Dez and I have a few basic things in common. We both went/go to college at OSU, we are both from Texas and he plays for Dallas while I’m a huge Dallas Fan. I follow him on Twitter because I like to see what he’s up to, I like to see the places he eats at in Dallas and know that I’ve eaten there before. But I agree with you about facebook dilution of friends. So I have not sent Dez a friend request because I do not know him and we haven’t even met but Twitter allows me a basic, minimum level of connection that fits my needs.

    As far as Facebook, I was happy to participate in “National Unfriend Day” on November 17th. So many of my “friends” I couldn’t even remember how I knew them. I admit I took the “unfriending” maybe a little far. Basically I went through every name and if I didn’t feel like I could open the conversation bar and talk to them or would want to talk to them, they got the delete… and I’ll be damned if the next time I logged onto Facebook I had 10+ friend requests from the people I had just deleted… These “facebook zombies” just won’t die.

    Great article by the way!

    Joshua Coffman
    Strategic Communications
    Oklahoma State University

  17. I realy appriciate this article, I know there are several times when people add me on facebook I tend to accept their request, I do know all the people I am friends with whether from the university or from home, and only a handful of the people I have only met once and we have a pretty big mutual friend. There are people who are following me on twitter however that I do not know and the beauty is I dont have to follow them back. It would nice to see facebook, LinkIn, and other social sites have the same system for friend request. I do agree that if people want to be connected to me I will check them out first and then accept, but evn with social site moving one sided, it is different than being friends with someone off the internet. That is a mutual friendship, but the internet doesnt have to be. It still raises the question of who you are connected to shows who you are and is public content for anyone.

  18. This was a great post! I think that defining our online connections is going to become VERY important as we continue to make more and more of them in the future. There are definately different classifications that our followers, friends and connections fall into, but I do think that it all comes down to a couple of important issues.

    First, we have to think about whether or not we want those people to have access to our personal or professional information and opinions. Secondly, as my social media class discussed (as prompted by a tweet from me to our professor), you are who you follow. Your friends, endorsements, connections and those you follow do create an image for you.

    It may seem rude to not accept a friend invitation, but if I don’t want someone to know all of my business, I’m not going to accept their request. Or I guess I should say, Not Now, at least.

  19. To add to my comment, I think it’s a great thing that LinkedIn is changing the way you can search for people and make connections, but I also know that people like it because you do have to have a real-life connection to them in order to connect via LinkedIn. I personally haven’t quite figured out LinkedIn etiquitte. For instance, is it a bad thing to add a possible future employer when applying for a job? Is it necessary to add a message when requesting a connection? These are just somethings that I was wondering about.

    Greta Gray
    Strategic Communications
    Oklahoma State University

  20. I’m glad I took the time to read this article because you bring up a lot of good points that I agree to and relate with. As an ambassador on my college campus, I receive several friend/ follower requests weekly and I have to be somewhat strict with the people I choose to accept. It’s not out of rudeness but like you said it is out of protecting your own reputation. I want people to be following me because they find what I have to say valuable, not because they want to look through my pictures and see what I am doing. That being said, I protect my different social media outlets at different levels. I look to my FaceBook as more of a leisure/connecting with my friends site, my LinkedIn as a professional tool and my Twitter as a little bit of both.
    On my Twitter account, I like to keep the number of people I follower and the people following me relatively even. I agree with Nedra’s post I don’t have the time or patience to weed through people’s tweets that don’t pertain to me, and this is why I choose to follow certain people/ companies. Like Greta mentioned about “you are who you follow” and it is important that people know this because it can affect or sway people’s opinions on your credibility and the information you offer online.

    Lauren Kempf
    Strategic Communications
    Oklahoma State University

    • Lauren…

      You might want to consider a “routing statement,” that declares your intention for that network and sets expectations for connecting and engagement.

      On my Facebook page, you’ll see a note that declares how Facebook fits into my work and how I use it. I’ve seen political consultants who have other disclaimers, saying “Don’t draw conclusions about who I am connected with, it’s my job.”

      Also, you’ll see that the link in my Twitter account bio leads to a page on my blog, where I outline how I use Twitter and what strategy I use to cultivate my network.

      When you declare your intent, then “shunning” someone’s connection is no longer personal.

  21. Your article really got me thinking. I didn’t realize that by connecting to these so-called ‘random’ people that I don’t truly have an actual connection with, I am automatically hurt my credibility for all those others that I do have true connections with. I believe that people, me included, get caught up in a little game called ‘Who Can Get the Most Friends.’ I know that’s exactly the game I was playing, which makes no sense and shouldn’t be my goal. This article discusses an extremely important point that all social media users should be familiar with. It all depends on what reasons you have for using your social media sites. I’m at the point in my life where I really need to use my true connections for potential job opportunities and cut out all other ‘extras’ that I may not even know yet or have reason to do so. I’m good about only reaching out to people that I’m genuinely interested in getting to know or wanting to know their views; however, I’ve had many people reach out to me that I don’t believe share that same mentality. With that being said, I usually still accept them.

    After reading your article, I view that accepting process much differently. I don’t want the connection with just anybody or everybody. Due to the fact that I’m not using my social media sites with a more professional platform, it’s important that I choose my connections wisely and trim the ‘fat.’
    Really great article and thanks for helping me out! This is an important viewpoint that the social media world should be familiar with and figure out what they want to do!

    Michael Dozzi
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  22. This was such an great post to read. I’m always careful with what I say on social media sites, but I never took into consideration that people could judge me based on who I follow. I’m always a little peeved when some stranger asks me to be a friend on Facebook. Usually, they never say how they know me, and I deny their “friendship.” I agree with Greta–I don’t want some stranger knowing my personal business.

    I’m always careful with privacey on social media sites, particularly Facebook. However, I wasn’t aware though that people could see my status updates if I hadn’t accepted their friend request yet. This seems wrong to me as it lets people see things that I might want to keep private. I don’t usually put anything bad on Facebook, but I don’t like knowing someone outside of my “friends” can see my updates.

    With Twitter, I try to follow only people who are interesting. I tend to like Twitter more than Facebook because I don’t have to follow everyone who’s following me. Like Nedra and Lauren, I don’t really go through people’s tweets unless they pertain to me or my interests.

    Samantha Wilson
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  23. This is a great article and something I think about a lot. I am still getting used to Linked In. I do not have as much of a hard time granting requests as much as deciding who to request. I am on the job hunt and I am using Linked In to connect with professionals but I am trying to do this with some tact.

    When it comes to Twitter I decided who to follow two different ways depending on which account I am on. On my personal account I only follow people I know and things I am interest in. On the other hand I have a cooking blog and I use Twitter to generate followers. When I am on that account I follow most people that have selected to follow me, unless it is obvious they are just trying to sell me something, because I want them to know that they are important to me.
    I am still experimenting with using Twitter to promote myself though. I would love suggestions on how to use followers/following to do this.

    Chelsea McGuire
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  24. I think you have great content here. This is what I have been preaching to my own friends for a while now. I don’t understand the concept of requesting a friend request for the heck of it. The only time I see it ok is if you are a business or organization whose objective is to increase awareness through social media.

    I have always taken social media as something I enjoy, but also something that cannot be played with. You have to have a level of respect with the Internet. Personal things you post can put you in harm’s way if complete strangers are able to see what you are doing at all times. And with Facebook’s new “places,” I think it only increases the risk.

    When I receive a friend request on any outlet, I not only have to know the person, but I have to know them well. I don’t trust people on the Internet and I feel that that has worked to my advantage and I feel much safer because of it.
    Thank you for the post. Great content, great truth.

    Samantha Powell
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communication

  25. Social media has become a way to build you as a brand, and like you said, “you run the risk of diluting your own reputation.” It’s like I say when it comes to choosing my close friends, “you are the company you keep,” and that goes along with Facebook. I’ve been selective on who I open up to my personal life on Facebook only “befriending” those I’ve had somewhat of a real connection with—through school, work, mutual friends, etc. At the same time, I’m careful about what I share with these people online. Of course, it’s always you that could ruin your own reputation.

    Samantha McWilliams
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Strategic Communications

  26. Ike, I really appreciate this article. I have been thinking from your point of view for a while now. Saying that people are Facebook “friends” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are true “friends” in real life. The on-line connection of two people is vastly different than the connection between two best friends. A connection on Facebook doesn’t even need two-way communication. A status update can be seen by hundreds of people that I may never talk to more than twice a year, but they instantly know what is going on in my life.

    It is amazing to see how much power Facebook has when it comes to connections. It’s important fore people to understand a quick status update can affect an acquaintance. Just because you may never talk to some of your Facebook friends on a daily, monthly or yearly basis doesn’t mean you aren’t connected to them in some way. If they are able to see what is going on in your life from Facebook, there is an invisible connection.

    The “not now” button is a change on Facebook that I don’t like. Why can’t we just go back to the days of ignoring the requests? If I don’t want to accept the request now, why would I want to accept it three days later? Ignoring is not a bad thing. If I don’t know you and don’t want you in my personal life, I feel that I should have the power to ignore your request.

    I am happy you wrote a post about this. I think it should be something that every social media user needs to read and think about. Thanks!

    Kate Ludewig
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  27. I enjoyed this article. I am an avid Facebook user and I can now officially call myself an avid Twitter user. When I first created my Facebook, I did not really understand all of the aspects and how big Facebook was when I started. When I created my Facebook I accepted everyone that asked me to be their friend. As I became more fluent when it came to Facebook, I started to only add people that I knew, and accept friend requests from only people I know. I also made my page private so that only people that I wanted to view it could view it. I believe that less is more when it comes to Facebook because if you start adding anyone and everyone that asks to be your friend then your news feed is going to be full of things you are not interested in, and people you may not want to see your business will then be able to see your business. You can not be friends with everyone in real life or on Facebook, it just does not work.

    When I started Twitter, I aimed it as using it more for networking for jobs and contacts since I am graduating soon. I use Twitter a lot to keep up with the new and upcoming PR ideas and ways, so that I can stay on top of it. I do find myself sometimes conversing with my friends about silly things on Twitter, but for the most part I try to use it to do create business contacts.

    I like that on Twitter just because someone follows you, you do not have to follow them back and vice versa. Not everyone in life is going to be your friend and care about what you have to say on Twitter or Facebook.

    Good article, with a lot of truth.

    Tamera Davis
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Strategic Communications

  28. “I’m just reminding everyone to pay attention to what they want out of their networks, then behave in a way that supports that goal”
    I read this in a comment you posted to somebody else, and i absolutely love it. People need to figure out what they want out of their social networks, and then act accordingly. If you are using your Facebook for networking purposes/ job hunting then you need to act that way. No posting keg stand pictures, status updates about how hungover you are, cursing, etc. I mean, you can but that kind of defeats the purpose. If you want to keep your Facebook completely private with only close friends so that you can feel free to post whatever you want, then use it that way. I do however believe that less is definitely more these days. I had a Facebook back in high school and had over 1,000 friends. then one day i realized that i didn’t really like the idea of all those people knowing everything i did. I deleted my Facebook for 6 months- it was actually kind of freeing, except i missed being able to communicate with my friends from different colleges. This time around, i only friended/accepted friend requests from people i actually knew. granted, there are some that i only know “of” and don’t necessarily NEED to be friends with, but that number is very few compared to what it was.

    I, like so many others, don’t understand the “Not Now” button. if not now, then when? what’s the point of waiting? either you want to be friends with them or you don’t. Facebook, you confuse me yet again.

    Also, i agree about Twitter. I like being able to follow people without them automatically being able to see my tweets. it’s less pressure and i wish Facebook was like that as well.

    “Friends are the people you share with by mutual choice.” Great quote from your article, and something that we should all remember when friending/ accepting friend requests on Facebook!

    Kim Duncan
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media & Strategic Communication

  29. The thought of accepting every single person that has some interest in being my friend on Facebook or Twitter is overwhelming. I don’t have an interest in sharing my life with people I don’t know. I also reciprocate that feeling by not wanting to know about other people I don’t have a vested interest in. I think meeting new people is a great thing, but Facebook for me is personal. It’s a running slideshow of my life. Combing my pictures, status updates and wall posts over the course of some time would give anybody a pretty good idea as to what my life has been about lately. Also, at my age, many people have come to realize not every friend request has good intentions attached to it. Some people simply request friendship (or access to your page) just to “Facebook stalk” you. They want to have access to your page only to look and see if their interest in posted on it somewhere. Of course I’m talking about the crazy ex-girlfriends that want to see if their ex has been hanging out with you. I have been on the bad end of this type of request, but thankfully I have a strict “if I don’t know you well enough to have your number in my phone, I don’t add you” policy. Adding people to your social pages does come with a certain amount of responsibility. I know the people I am friends with reflects me to a degree. Everybody I’m friends with I’m willing to be accountable for what they could potentially post and associate my name with. Friendship is great, and having a lot friends is better, but my motto is quality over quantity.

    Jessica Green
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  30. Well put.
    it feels weird to say that I have been engaging in social media for about 6 years now but I have and for a majority of that time I was playing with empty fists. I put little consideration into who I was connecting with and that is the reason I have now have a certain distaste for Facebook. It is no longer an intimate cyber network but now a water-downed representation of my close circle of friends that now includes my aunt, a guy from my college algebra class freshman year and my roommate’s friend from home who may or may not come visit next year. Unfortunately i allowed the network to shape me instead of the other way around and because of that I don’t feel like I can utilize Facebook to its full potential. This not now function is frustrating and to me it seems like Facebook is just trying to force internal network growth. If I want to accept them i will accept them but I don’t need Facebook there over my shoulder saying ‘Are you sure you want to decline them? just incase we will keep them here for you.” I am a big boy and the safety net for friendship requests is not appreciated.

    Justin Yearwood
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  31. Weston Shepherd
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communication

    I like the idea of building a “friendship” before becoming “linked.”

    Kind of like dating– You take some time to get to know one another, try to impress, act like you’ve got something to offer and then, after all that, you make the commitment to put up with one another.

    I’m still learning at all this and perhaps a little too ambitious when trying to make everyone my “friend.” Hopefully I can one day establish myself enough to be picky with who I interact with.

  32. I agree with Teresa Rogge and Madison Longust. This section of your article: “If you make a habit of linking completely random people to your profile, you run the risk of diluting your own reputation for the solid connections you really do have. You’ll be known as the guy who cheats with empty fists. And the truth is, you don’t get any advantage for pretending to know more people than you do.” Along with “National Unfriend Day” last month and some awkward Facebook Feed moments have really prompted me to up my game in clearing out the contacts I do not have an actual relationship with.

    However, I am glad you made the distinction that you do not have to have met people in person for their connection to be important, because I was really on the fence about a few of my contacts who fall into that category. I’ve conversed with them regularly online, and that interaction has value. On the flip side, If I talked with someone once in high school, but not since then, that relationship does not have enough value for me to retain: It just exposes my personal information to a larger pool of people.

    Thank you for the article, and the push to action.
    I would also like to thank you for engaging so many members of our social media class: being responded to (in such a coherent and positive manner) really does increase the desire to share our thoughts online!

    Heather Spencer
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Architecture

  33. I have recently made the mistake of adding a lot of people who have no real connection to me. The plain and simple truth of the matter is that I regret this decision. It’s important to realize I didn’t randomly see people and guess that I wanted to know the, I usually befriended them because they were involved in things I wanted to know more about i.e. football players from my university. I don’t know how I fooled myself into thinking their pages would be different than mine, but I expected updates on the teams progress and their thoughts and feelings on the matter. In fact, they are just college students like me who wish to comment about their own daily lives. Now I’m being bombarded by people who I don’t know but are “mutual friends.” Thinking about your article and the section on “diluting your own personal image” I feel I have some cleaning up to do on my page. I like the suggestion to just get to know people. I like that idea because it combines the shift to social media, with the life style of still knowing people up front and making a genuine connection to that person. It’s good to see that there are still those who advocate genuine relationships.

    Greg Dean
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communication

  34. I really enjoyed reading this article because I think it is definitely something that everyone my age can learn from. As my fellow students have pointed out, the mentality in this day and age is “more is more;” the more friends you have the better. As your article points out, this concept real dilutes your connections and can make you seem foolish. I also really liked what Greta said, that before accepting a friend request you should really think about whether or not we want those people accessing our information. I know the norm for most people is to accept a friend request as long the person requesting has mutual friends in common with you. A great example of why this is a bad idea happened to me last month. Someone had requested to be my friend and we had around 70 friends in common. To me this was enough for me to add her as a friend, I had even assumed we had met before. Once I started asking my friends who she was though, we all realized no one knew her and we had all simply added her because of her her (fake) connects to our other friends. To reiterate Greta’s point, this was someone I decided I definitely did not want accessing my information. From now on I only except friend requests from people I am certain I have met before.

  35. I think that it would not be hard for me to step away from social media. It is not something that I have to have but is something that sometimes depending on the day, consumes much of my time. I think staying connected is very important. In my mind I am always worried that maybe something has happened that I need to know about. Maybe someone has been in a car wreck, had a baby, gotten engaged or something else life changing has happened. When things like that happen we usually tell our closes friends and then post it as a status or something less personal but still informs the rest of the world, or at least our friends who will see our status on their news feed. I don’t usually care about all the other little things that people post unless it is something big than I just skim right over it. I think that me being this way means that I’m not as in need of social media as many other people are. I wonder how the U.S would do if everyone did not use social media for one day? To me that is somewhat of a scary thought but one to consider for sure.
    Thanks for the post.

    Sarah West
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communication

  36. Interesting topic, and you provided some insight I hadn’t really thought about myself. This has kind of inspired me to clean up my list of facebook friends. I used to be of that school of thought that if someone wanted to be connected to me online, then why not, right? Can’t have too many “friends.”
    But after you take this approach for a few years, you begin to realize your social media is all cluttered and you no longer have a direction. I never knew that would be important a few years ago, but now it’s all about creating your personal brand and your online presence that other people see. If that kid I sat beside 3 years ago in Stat class is just cluttering my news feed and serving as a wasted connection, we’re not connected at all. You have to not let the social network shape you, but instead get what you want out of it. Good lessons, here.
    Jordan Griffis
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Media and Strategic Communications

  37. I am with Heather Spencer on this one. I am glad that is pointed out that meeting a person in real life is necessary to be connected online. I think that is one of the biggest misconceptions of social media. Sure, there are creepers and you have to be smart about who you friend/follow. But if it is someone who looks like they are nice and you have grown to like what they say or you have conversed with them on numerous occasions, then there should be no problem in friending/following someone you don’t know. There doesn’t seem like their should be any reason why it would matter who you associate yourself with online. It is a different kind of reality. People are different online, no matter what they say. Friend and follow anyone of interest (safely).

    Gant Lee
    Oklahoma State University
    School of Strategic Communications


  1. Minne Social says:

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  8. The Nature of Our Online Connections by @ikepigott TY for sharing Ike's post! @KaryD Ike, thank you for writing it!

  9. […] Can’t you JUST be my neighbor? from Occam’s Razr by Ike […]

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