I write this sentence with 653 Facebook friends, 183 subscribers, and 38 people to whom I subscribe. Confused yet? I’ll try to explain…
The Definition of a Friend
People who are my friends clicked the Add Friend button and waited for me to reciprocate. Others who didn’t want to be my friend and/or who I didn’t want to reciprocate clicked the Subscribe button. Both friends and subscribers can read my wall posts intended for the public, but only my friends (and further, those friends on explicit friend lists) can read what I want them to read.
While my definition of a friend has changed since joining the social networking site in 2005, the core remains the same: Friends are people who I know in the flesh, share an interest or two, and consider socially compatible. Family members and so-called close friends fit this definition.
But what about the people I’ve never met? What of those I’ve only talked with on the telephone, tweeted with, commented back and forth on their and my blogs, and otherwise know but don’t “know” the way I know my close friends? What about you? Should I be friends with you?
Tamar Weinberg nailed these questions in a January 2010 blog post about her similar Facebook evolution:
Facebook is about real relationships, and when I look at your name, I want be able to justify that friendship. Facebook is an extension of the real world in the virtual space.
I also want to justify my Facebook friends as real people. I want to look at the name and face of a friend and instantly know where I met the person, when we last talked, and why we love reading and sharing each other online.
Twitter and LinkedIn, in the way I use them to connect with the world, don’t offer me ways to know who’s who unless I know you.
Facebook helps me manage you through lists and subscriptions.
How I Use Friend Lists
I use lists to manage friends I know in the flesh.
This chart represents 81% of my Facebook friends.
Stated differently, of the 653 people who I am reciprocally friends with in that I can potentially (given the Facebook EdgeRank algorithm) see their wall posts and they can see mine, 529 of the 653 are strategically positioned inside one of several friend lists: family members, high school classmates, Newburyport constituents, social media peers, etc.
Lists help me be productive on Facebook when I want to quickly see, for instance, what local residents are writing about the outside storm or what pictures my Jewish friends are sharing from their Passover kitchens.
Because Facebook does not provide a utility for seeing which of my friends are not in a friend list (and I have yet to investigate whether a third-party tool does this), it is hard for me to identify the other 18 percent. As I discover them, I place them inside friend lists.
How I Use Subscriptions
I use subscriptions to manage friends I’ve never met.
Beyond my 653 friends, I am subscribed to 38 people. These are predominantly industry peers but also other people who opt to turn on the Subscribe button and enable me to follow their public wall posts without requiring reciprocal friendship.
Subscriptions began last fall.
For instance, I am friends with Beth Kanter who I’ve met in the flesh but subscribed to Geoff Livingston who I’ve yet to meet.
Notice the friend and subscribe buttons for each.
How Are We Connected?
If we are not friends on Facebook, please understand that is my goal. But if we’ve never met (or if I don’t know you in some other way), I encourage you to connect with me for the time being as a subscriber.
Visit my Facebook profile and click the subscribe button. While you won’t see every wall post of mine that I target to specific friend lists, you will see those posts that I open to the global Facebook community — including you — to read, like, comment, and share.
Subsequent blog posts of mine will introduce other features and aspects how I use Facebook. But in the meantime, do you have any questions?
How do you use Facebook to manage relationships?