Dear Facebook: Please Lift 5,000 Friend Limit (A Modest Proposal)

http://i64.photobucket.com/albums/h189/simplychrislike/LiveRiot/n_1186439527_logo_facebook-rgb-7inc.jpg

Well it happened today: Someoneย added me, and became Facebook friend number 4800. I have 200 friends to go before Facebook caps me out. In case you didn’t know, Facebook has a 5,000 friend limit. Their reasoning is that, unlike Myspace, they want to limit your contacts to actual friends, and curtail commercial abuses and that sort of thing.

I get that.

And yet: it feels a bit paternalistic that they get to decide who consenting adults add or accept as ‘friends.’ It’s true, I accept & request people on the basis of shared affinity – people interested in comic books, futures studies, house church & emerging church, fellow authors, et cetera, et cetera…not just my high school & college buddies, co-workers, and flesh-and-blood friends. But so what? I enjoy my e-quaintences, and to some degree they must enjoy me too, or else I’d be pruned from their lists by now. Sometimes I meet a Facebook acquaintances who’s in town over coffee, and we become friends of the more flesh-and-blood sort. Sometimes powerful business partnerships result, or new activist initiatives. Or conferences or meetups or…

You get the picture. Ultimately, social networks are about connecting people, in all the weird & wonderful ways we choose to get connected. And please, Facebook, let’s not mince words: You are in this as a commercial endeavor. And while it’s true that less than 3% of us are at or approaching the 5,000 friend limit, we use your site a lot. And that’s good for business. And there are more of us out there, every day. (An unlikely crew of Todd Bentley, Mark Driscoll, and Brian McLaren have hit and are hovering around the 5,000 friend limit – goodness gracious)

So what am I to do? Well first off, I’m going to continue approving friend requests as they come in, right up ’till the bitter end of my efriendment capacity. The only people I don’t accept are those that don’t seem to be ‘people’ at all, like stores & such. If its a store I like I’d even approve it, but this friend limit thing has forced me to reconsider. They can create ‘Fan’ pages. Speaking of, I guess the other thing I’m gonna have to do is replace my Facebook profile in the right-hand column of this blog with my Fan profile, which I think is ludicrous on so many levels. For one, Facebook, it goes against my religious beliefs. Don’t laugh: As a decentralized-churcher follower of Jesus, I believe in something called ‘the priesthood of all believers.’ It’s kind a like the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but before there was a UN. The upshot is, I think we’re all created in the image of God, and we all have equal worth and dignity. I’m not really into a separated clerical caste as such, nor am I into the cult of celebrity. By forcing me to create a Fan page (which I did in as tongue-in-cheek a manner as possible), you’re making me compromise one of my deepest-held spiritual convictions and it’s causing me many sleepless nights. I’m going to send you my therapist’s bills and my confessor’s bills. Okay so you’re not forcing forcing me into it, but still. http://www.pjlighthouse.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/social_network_seo_web_marketing.jpg

Look, I’ve also heard that you folks have some programming and bandwidth hurdles to overcome in order to lift the friendship ban. At least, that’s what I heard in 2006. Seeing as it’s 2009 now, why don’t we give each other the benefit of the doubt: You’re still leery about some Facebook users wanting over 5,000 friends and we’re frankly leery of your continued inability to technologically accomadate us. So let’s split the difference: Don’t utterly obliterate the friend limit, but double it. Cap us off at 10,000 friends this year, and let’s see how it goes. I guarantee you, this will be a good PR move. There might only be 3% of us who fit into this category, but we all happen to be journalists and/or bloggers. We will be singing your praises, and everyone else will be compelled to listen to this deafening acclamation. So whaddaya say, friends? (I call you ‘friends’ in the broadest, friendliest sense possible…I’m not trying to add you. I promise.)

Oh, and another thing…

While I have your attention, could I bring up one other teensy-weensy thing: I was penalized yesterday for using a third-party application to try and let all my friends know about a free ebook a friend of mine has written. Now when I sign on, my Facebook page fairly assaults me with “

Please Read This! Warning! Your account could be disabled. Danger, Will Robinson! (No, that’s not in their text. It continues…) Your behavior indicates that you may be in violation of Facebook’s Terms of Use. Continued misuse of Facebook’s features could result in your account being disabled. If you have any questions or concerns, you can visit our FAQ page.
The FAQ page continues to scold me about ‘misbehavior,’ which includes “repeatedly send[ing] the same message or to mak[ing] the same post.”In other words, emailing my own friends about a free ebook by a friend of mine. “If you have been warned,” Facebook cautions, “please do not send or post anymore messages with the same or similar content. Spamming on Facebook will lead to your account being permanently disabled.” Tried and sentenced, by robots! (Visions of Asimov & Kurzweil & The Matrix & Terminator dance in my head, vying for center stage) Facebook, please…make it possible for me to contact all of my friends without your interface going ape$#!t on me.
Facebook, I’d love to hear from you about any or all of these things. Dear readers, I’d like to hear from you as well – have you had similar experiences with any of the above? Do you have any work-around suggestions?
In The Meantime…
While I still love you, Facebook, I’ll be paying more attention than I have to micro social networks that fit some of my interests. Including:
Feel free to friend me. : )

29 Responses to Dear Facebook: Please Lift 5,000 Friend Limit (A Modest Proposal)

  1. Kevin Lum January 26, 2009 at 9:45 pm #

    You should check out http://www.webangelical.com – I think you might enjoy it.

  2. Daniel Sims January 26, 2009 at 9:57 pm #

    Can I interest you in an another website?

    Take your activity (and potentially your friends) elsewhere. I recommend FriendFeed.com, which is basically your your “Wall” outside of Facebook.

    All the activity you did on Facebook can be done on other sites (and done better). Post your photos on Flickr.com, update your status on Twitter.com, etc. You have much more control of your data that way too (you will never get your data out of Facebook).

    You don’t have to totally drop Facebook, but you change your use of it. Start giving out your twitter name instead of saying “friend me on facebook”. All the cool kids are doing it ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Irritable January 26, 2009 at 11:48 pm #

    I’d just like to say that “ape$#!t” was brilliant.

  4. Kat January 27, 2009 at 3:16 am #

    Mike,

    I’m always been kind of overawed at the sheer number of people you touch base with. I have always wondered what drives you to add so many people to your friends list(s). Are you just a naturally free wheelin’ kind of guy who likes people all shapes, sizes, and all hours of the day and night? Do you make as many friends in person as online? And if you make them in person, do they automatically start connecting with you online? I just had to ask, because I never could do that sort of thing–I have to hide from the crowds sooner or later, either online or in person–both. It’s a trait that many successful people have, though–I mean many contacts–not hiding in a corner.

  5. PePa January 27, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    Do you have a Facebook group we can join to support your proposal? ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Bill January 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm #

    Mike,

    What is your real concern? Who cares whether you have 5, 50, 500 or 5,000 Facebook friends? I am one of your Facebook friends and we’ve had some interaction but that’s all.

    I am toying with an idea. I think one thing that defines our lives is not how much we can live with but how much we can live without. Do really have a need for 5,000 Facebook friends? Who does? I think you are also out there on LinkedIn and/or Plaxo. You are just begging the question.

    Come on, Mike. I think I am smelling some disingenousness (is that a word?).

    Peace.

  7. zoecarnate January 27, 2009 at 3:02 pm #

    Thanks for the interaction, everyone!

    Kevin, I’m loving webangelical.com. Does it aggregate blogs, or are those fresh posts?

    Daniel, FriendFeed huh? I’ve heard of it; I guess I’m behind the curve, eh? I feel mildly disoriented by FF, not sure how to use it yet. But I’ll keep engaging it. But if I give out my Twitter feed, won’t I run into the same problem? Don’t they have an upper limit of followers too?

    Thanks Irritable. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Kat, it’s either a gift or an addiction! When I first joined Facebook in 2006 or so, I imported my Gmail contacts (then about 6,000, now twice that) to see who I knew who was already in. That automatically started me out at a pretty high friend count! And yes, if I meet someone these days for lunch or coffee or at a gathering or what have you, chances are one of us FB ‘friends’ the other within 24 hours. A by-product of our cyber age, I’d imagine. Is this always healthy? I’m pretty sure not! In my quest for better time management (not to mention more serenity of soul), I’ve been building in daily solitude, in the form of centering prayer before I get on the ROM.

    PePa, there is indeed a group you can join! It’s right here.

    Ah, Mr. Van Loon. I remember fondly when we first connected. It was the summer of 2006, you emailed me (via zoecarnate.com) seeking resources on skepticism and the church. While our interactions have been few, they have been sweet. ๐Ÿ™‚ So I guess I don’t understand, why the consternation? So I’m on LinkedIn & Plaxo too…first of all, how would you even know that unless you were on there too?? Tee-hee. I get what you’re saying, about how little can we live with. Ask my wife what she thinks of our 3600 books and 6,000 comic books. To say nothing of the 7500+ links that populate zoecarnate.com. While I’d love to be a Quaker, I’m far too ostentatious. But like every other human on the planet, I’m having to take ‘simplicity’ seriously as we enter the second decade of the 21st century. This will likely not result in the reduction of books, but will certainly result in the reduction of my carbon footprint overall. That said, I hope that relationships – dear friends, e-quaintences, whatever – are not placed in the reduction heap.

    And that’s about as genuous as I can get.

    • Linda Sims January 29, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

      Twitter limit raises as your followers rise. You are allowed to follow approximately 10% more than are following you. The thing I hate about the 5000 friend limit on facebook is that it turns the World’s Largest Social Network into a very unusable site once you reach the 5000 limit. If I wanted to become a friend of the red cross fan page I can’t, because I have 4999 friends unless I get an existing friend to send me an invite. That is not being social. Facebook is not a fan site. They’ve promised for 3 years the limit would increast, it’s not that hard. Twitter does it. They could to if they wanted to.

  8. Tyler January 27, 2009 at 4:28 pm #

    I don’t understand why people want you to “go somewhere else”…everyone is on Facebook. It is pointless to be somewhere else if not everyone else is there. That and Facebook is a lot better than those others or they would be like Facebook.

    Anyway, I like the capper because it goes back to their original intention with the social network site to connect friends who want to be more connected. Friends in this case being people you already know well.

  9. Daniel Sims January 28, 2009 at 11:13 pm #

    Twitter has no limits (see http://twitter.com/barackobama ) and having thousands of followers wont effect you at all (following thousands will though). If you really do want to follow, search, discover, and interact with thousands of people, Friendfeed is the best since it is real-time but you can hide whatever you want to make it manageable. Information overload is becoming a huge problem as more people move their lives online. (like taking your 3600 books and 6,000 comic books and multiply it by all your connection’s books)

    I think the reason Facebook puts a cap on friends because all of their value is in owning your “real” social-graph. Advertisers can target you on Facebook unlike anywhere else. As soon as you can friend anyone, then it’s not “real” anymore. That means decrease in advertising revenue.

  10. Cathryn January 31, 2009 at 4:16 am #

    Ok, now i’m feeling honoured in all the 5,000 that you have responded on facebook instant chat.. (which ps.. sucks to high heaven- ever notice if you type too fast on it.. it goes into lock!) anyhoo… just sending a hello.. and not on facebook.. though i should feel uber privileged that i’m among your (just under 5,000) fold……. shall you start the feeding of fish and bread soon….
    blessings & phat shalom so thick you can’t wash it off with a fire hose!!
    cathryn

  11. Billy February 2, 2009 at 2:42 am #

    What’s Facebook?!? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Jenny K February 2, 2009 at 4:55 pm #

    Mike, I just came across this: http://www.joelcomm.com/facebook_booted_me_for_having.html

    Just a warning. I think your account will be permanently disabled once you reach that number (which would suck).

    I’m more in the camp of Facebook should be used for real life friends, but as you said, you are an adult and can decide for yourself ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m just trying to warn you that they may not reason with you (or respond to you at all) when you get to 5k.

  13. Peter May 9, 2009 at 7:43 pm #

    I have 4100 friends on FB. 200 real friends and 5100 in my Mafia Family. Ok that doesnt add up right? 1200 have left my friends but remain in my mafia. So theoretically I can go up to 5800 friends if I dont erase any more. But I should erase 1600 to get down to half required.

  14. eck July 24, 2009 at 6:20 am #

    I think they also anticipate from spam

  15. othmane February 18, 2010 at 9:08 am #

    No has 5000 friends, you don’t have enough space in your life to deal with 5000 friends.

    If you want to have friend based on common interest start what is called a facebook group:

    example

    1- comic books group
    2- futures studies group
    3- house church & emerging church group
    4- fellow authors group

    Your need for 5000 friends is just sad.

  16. Anthony March 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm #

    I would like to have more than 5000 friends on facebook, any idea when this will possible? What is the current buzz regarding increasing friend limits?

  17. michaelkentlive March 30, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    As someone who is a public performer, I have both a Facebook profile and Facebook fan page. I’ve found that many people would rather add me as a friend than impersonally becoming a fan. They want that added level of personal interaction, and I totally understand that.

    It’s not about having 5,000 friends for some personal gratification like othmane is implying above. For me, its about giving fans access to my personal friend page where they can interact with me and have it feel the same as interacting with their friends.

    http://facebook.com/michaelkentLIVE
    http://facebook.com/michaelkentFANS

  18. Sebster April 19, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Sorry but you are pathetic.. You should watch the southpark episode about facebook and maybe you will understand why I said that.

  19. Tami April 22, 2010 at 9:03 am #

    I only have the issue as fanpages that you like/fan are counted as a friend. To me that is silly, fb is telling me I am not allowed to like the work, music, brand etc of more that x amount. Since so many of these are getting facebook pages from you local news/radio to skittles there should be no limit on amount of pages you like and should not in my opinon be counted in your friends limit..

  20. emily May 25, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    Couldnt be more true.

  21. angie June 6, 2010 at 4:33 am #

    I hate the stupid cap…I have 5000 friends and I do talk to majority of them. I have met a bunch of amazing people I have a lot of friends because i love meeting new people espically from different countries and talking to them and seeing what it’s like and learning about different cultures. i think the limit is absoutley ridiculious

  22. Danny September 16, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    EGO!!! Does Facebook not understand that some people just don’t have the EGO??

    I’m late to the commenting here but here’s the bottom line:

    Facebook needs to understand that many people on Facebook might have done something that attracts more than 5000 friends in their life but they DON’T feel like that have to create their own page, which to many is only seen as a SELF PROMOTIONAL vehicle.

    They don’t need to announce to the world that they have their own SELF BRAND PAGE to accommodate Facebook’s silly limitation. A limitation that’s clearly doesn’t make sense for a lot of people who don’t have the EGO to create their own “ME PAGE!”

    A classic example is a bass player I once played with back in Boston, Bruce Gertz. Now Bruce is a teacher and fairly well known guy. Known enough to reach the limit. But knowing Bruce, he’s not going to suddenly create his one “ME PAGE” and manage two areas.

    It’s not going to happen with Bruce or thousands of other people, so Facebook is screwing their user base who is capable of making their own decision how they manage their own social experience.

    Perhaps it’s just Facebook’s own ego that believes “they are the way, the truth”. That’s what MySpace once thought (after Friendster)!!
    Wake up and change, before someone changes their mind about you Facebook…

    The End.
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. Danny September 16, 2010 at 7:47 am #

    PS:
    I was never able to friend Bruce. Thus I’ll never see his updates. ๐Ÿ™

  24. chema January 17, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    I think facebook should keep the friend cap or even lower it, and create an acquaintance option. I often meet people that I don’t want to add to my friend list but perhaps do want to get in touch with in the future. I would like a way to save them for future reference so to speak. I know that I could find them anytime by searching but let’s face it, I’m probably gonna forget name’s. For example, “what was the name of that person who I met in class last week? Man, it sure would be nice to see if they wanted to come to a study group.” sure I could have friended them, but I don’t want to see them on my newsfeed. Or all the people who I once knew in high school who send me requests, I don’t want to deny them our connection, but let’s be real here, they are not friends, they are acquaintances. Another example is people I meet at parties, albeit just acquaintances, I feel they are still deserving of a little cyber recognition, and yet not a full blown spot on my newsfeed and into my private life.

    I know that a similar effect could be had by creating friend lists with specific privacy settings but it’s not the same, because “friends,” even on facebook, has a different connotation and different social dynamics then “acquaintance.”

    What do you guys think?

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