Well it happened today: Someone 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.
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 “