Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fake friends, or being someone's spam cannon fodder

This rant was prompted by people's comments on my Facebook status update today. It said:

"Defriended a Facebook "friend". It was one of those people who friend you for no good reason. He doesn't know me, lives in a different country, posts in Spanish (which I can't read), never comments on my posts, and keeps inviting me to events in another continent. I asked him to stop, but he kept doing that. I guess when you have over 1500 "friends", you don't have time to show special consideration to any one of them."

I got a range of responses to that. Some said they refuse friend requests from strangers, others said the whole point of Facebook is to meet new interesting people. Generally I agree with the latter, though I mostly use Facebook to keep in touch with people I know in real life. Nonetheless I used to accept friend requests from strangers mostly because I'm "too nice" (read spineless) to say no.

That's not to say I dislike reading strangers' updates. Not at all. I like them, if the author's personality comes through in them. This includes people's personal opinions, and observations about their life. However, there is a type of people -- unfortunately this is fairly common among atheists on Facebook -- who friend pretty much everyone with vaguely similar interests or views. Those people have 1000 - 2000+ "friends". They can't possibly read everyone's posts. And if they don't, what's the point of being "friends"? What's worse, people with the greatest number of impersonal friends are also the noisiest posters. They post 10-15 items every day. If those were updates on their personal life, it wouldn't be so bad. It could even be interesting. But they usually post news headlines, and those are typically headlines I've already seen elsewhere. I read the internet as avidly as anyone else, so I don't need news to be pushed on me. It's like those people have decided that I don't pay enough attention to the news, so they've taken it upon themselves to educate me and thousands of others. I resent that attitude.

Some of those people have admitted they have hooked up their Google Reader to automatically dump all their feeds into Facebook. So they don't even hand-pick their news! They don't even need to login into Facebook to set up this kind of automatic broadcasting. They can fill up your stream with their newsfeed crap without ever logging in and reading other people's posts!

Is that a "friend" relationship? No. If those folks think everyone should use them as a news portal, they should set up a fan page for themselves on Facebook. A fan page is the right model for broadcasting *at* people, as opposed to having conversations *with* people.

Funny thing is, I might be alone in my distaste for this kind of fake friendship. Many people actually comment on those posts, and get involved in long debates. Myself, I usually hide those hyper-logorrheic posters from my friends' stream. And if they pester me with invites to irrelevant events, I might even unfriend them, as I did today.

That said, I like reading updates, strangers' or not, if I can tell their author has put thought into them. It's impersonal broadcasting that I dislike.


Gary said...

When it gets too bad I click hide this person's posts.

Since I often post a number of times a day I often wonder how many people are hiding my posts.

Elze said...

If you broadcast at people, instead of having conversations with them, I wouldn't be surprised if they hide you.

Gary said...

But most of my friends followed me to Facebook from my blog which was a posting of news items.

Athena Andreadis said...


I agree with you. I had to deactivate my FB account, because it had become too distracting even when I rigorously screened and chose friends. Some of my friends use FB as news/links dumps. Some have friends or relatives whose views are too unpalatable.

I'm a research scientist, a published author of books and essay, and one of the contributors to 50 Voices of Disbelief (I met Russ Blackford in an academic convention about sf). I was at FB long enough to see your response to Russ' thread about the Burbank convention. The sense of cliquishness you felt is fairly endemic to self-designated "progressive" movements. More on the phenomenon here: Is It Something in the Water? Or: Me Tarzan, You Ape

Best regards,


Elze said...

I think I saw your name on Facebook in a comment to someone else's post not long ago, so I guess you have deactivated it very recently? Yes, some of the atheist "friends" are among the worst offenders in the sense of using Facebook as their newsreader dump.

That's a good blog you have there. Regarding cliquishness, I am planning to blog about it myself just as soon as I get over my current blogger's block. As far as the anti-feminist aspect of it, I've been fortunate enough not to have experienced it at science fiction conventions, as there are plenty of women on the panels, but I know that exclusion of women speakers is a big problem in science and tech-related conferences. It's been discussed at length recently in blogging circles, among them on (which I really like). I'm sadly not surprised that Singularity Summit is no different. While I'm very interested in the concepts of Singularity and transhumanism, I'm glad I don't miss out much by not going to it, because of all the wacky fringe the movement attracts, such as quantum microtubule guy, and the deny-women-right-to-vote guy you mentioned. Or, sadly, even Ray Kurzweil lately with his immortality vitamins.

Athena Andreadis said...

I deactivated my FB account last night. Too little signal, too much noise. Glad you liked the blog! I'll investigate With women sweeping this year's science Nobels, you'd think that the attitude would shift, but no.

I've written a good number of articles on transhumanism, some on my blog, some at H+ magazine (one appeared, one is about to). Here's an entry that discusses space exploration and transhumanism: Dreamers of a Better Future, Unite!