He’s added me but what does it mean? – Facebook confusions and conundrums

Using Facebook can be confusing for some users.

Many a confusion can arise from differences in Facebook etiquette. Broadly speaking there are five main classes of Facebook user. However before these can be discussed, disturbing reports must be addressed suggesting the rise of a new breed of Facebook user known as the “Mr/Miss Perfect”. This breed increases in number in the run up to graduate employment season and suspiciously only ever posts about how they have volunteered with children, are president of at least three societies and have won numerous awards. Their ‘likes’ include businesses, academic books and broadsheet newspapers. Friends who you thought you knew appear to have had a personality transplant and get disproportionally upset when you try to post things on their wall to remind them of their former identity, such as how much you enjoy re-watching the video of them hula-hooping in drag during the freshers’ talent contest .

Putting aside the Mr/Miss Perfects who cannot, due to the laws of physical possibility, be actual people, the first main class of Facebook user is the collector. A chance encounter of less than five minutes or even just being a friend of a friend of a friend is enough to become added to their Facebook heap, furthering the totaliser of popularity; it is likely that your page will never be looked at. At the other end of the spectrum is the keeper, who only adds people they’d like to spend one to one time with in real life. Acceptance of a friend request or even, lo and behold, a friend request initiated from this user is a badge of honour to be treasured, only available to an elite few.

A mysterious set of Facebook user, if you can really call them that, are the “ghosts”. Marked by a silhouette and united by a void-like profile, these are people whose Facebook account was most likely set up by friends concerned about their social well-being. When questioned, “ghosts” deny any relation between them and their Facebook page and rapidly disappear when discussions move to the merits of checking their account. This seemingly harmless user can generate much frustration and confusion when messages and friend requests are left floating unattended in the ether. With time “ghosts” may evolve into another type of Facebook user, the “ninjas”. Ninjas lead a much more active Facebook life but only the chosen few have access. Unsearchable and untraceable these users are never seen in photos. Even if you think you have spotted them in a photo, their tags mysteriously disappear, maintaining their secret identity and the high privacy levels to which they are accustomed.

Finally you have the stalker who adds people they aspire to be or be with, if you get my drift, then constantly checks their profiles for details which might help them get ahead. What might seem a simple friend request suddenly gets complicated. Take this scenario for example, you are a “keeper” and get a friend request from someone of the opposite sex you have just met at a society, they seem nice but you don’t really know them. You receive the request during a period of low brain power so in a knee jerk reaction you accept, wrecking years of careful vetting. This presents you with several conundrums. What was their motive for adding you? Is this a sign of romantic interest? Do you now add all the other people you met at the same time so it doesn’t look like favouritism? What about all those people who you haven’t accepted but know better, will they take offence when they see you are this person’s new friend? How about a different scenario, your new Facebook friend is someone you don’t really know that well, is it weird to go through their photos and posts when you haven’t had a conversation to that depth of intimacy?

Often when people add you they don’t think about what they have listed on their profile that they may or may not be quite comfortable with you seeing. People act differently in different friendship groups. Without a barrier in place, curiosity usually wins over any sense of overstepping the information boundary. So what points am I making here? I would argue that anything you see on Facebook shouldn’t significantly alter your perception of someone; it is too easy to see something out of context and make connections where there aren’t any. Even though there aren’t any barriers in place on viewing photos and comments on other people’s pages, if it doesn’t relate to your relationship with that person don’t trawl through it. Don’t read into anything such as friend requests, everyone uses Facebook differently so it is impossible to know the thinking behind things. Personally I am still unclear about the purpose of the poke – to annoy, get attention or a weird cyber tickle…who knows?

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