As we further hand over the management of our social relationships to Facebook, perhaps we need to pause for a moment and consider whether Facebook understands friendship.
To begin with, when you meet someone for the first time, the only thing you know about them is what you know publicly or perhaps what you have been told by mutual friends. Why cannot Facebook implement such a filter? My new friends should not be able to dive into my past until I share with them those moments: photos, status updates and even friendships.
Putting friends into lists is not how we handle friendships. Each relationship is unique. Aside from the fact that we shouldn’t have to manage such a list from an user experience point of view, it is unreasonable to think of friendship in this way. Each friendship, even the most cursory one, is unique. It should be an evolving development. As a friendship grows, so should access to certain more sensitive details. Rather than putting content into lists, perhaps we can develop over time a way of organising the type of content and how we like to share. For some, pictures remain private. For others, it is our rants. I’m a firm believer in a place to write without scrutiny, either privately or anonymously. Why does this not exist in Facebook? A nice thing to consider is that Facebook supports more private musings, they may encourage more public sharing (which is obviously their goal).
Finally, we are offered the opportunity to mark certain friends as ‘good friends’, which means we receive all of their status updates. We don’t need to open the flood gates (unless we abhor FB’s filtering to begin with). Even good friends need secrets. I removed my girlfriend from this list, because I didn’t think I need to see all of her interactions on Facebook. She’s still one on my best friends. I have a few siblings still in this list, but I am very close to removing one brother because he is prolifically ridiculous!
These are just some recent musings on our online social lives. We are all still figuring out how this space works. It is important that we provide feedback to the companies that play an important role in our social space. I don’t believe these features are impossible or extreme. Facebook has an amazing group of programmers and designers. I am certain they can find a way to develop a more realistic version of our social networks.
That is, if they want to be our friend.