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With Friends Like These …

In Issue:

It’s flattering at first. A long-ago childhood chum or former colleague, or someone you met at a wedding or convention, sends you a friend request on Facebook. After a moment’s hesitation, you accept. After all, they’ve gone out of their way to find you and ask your approval. You look forward to catching up and swapping stories, with your new “friend.”

Except that’s not what happens.

Soon enough, you notice that certain of these individuals never like or comment on your posts, while unleashing their own daily barrage of updates featuring their family and pets, vacations, or meals (invariably described as “Yummy!”). Or they use Facebook as a bully pulpit to pontificate upon movies, politics, restaurants, sports, world events — you name it, they have an opinion. Meanwhile, they could give a flying click about yours — not even bothering to add so much as a Happy Birthday greeting to your Timeline. You can’t help feeling that you’re not interesting or important enough for them to acknowledge, as if they befriended you solely to become part of their audience.

Meet what I call Facebook Farmers. These needy, obsessive-compulsive Web crawlers harvest friends as if they’re in some sort of contest (“My list is bigger than your list!”). Some go out of their way to connect with anyone and everyone they admire or have ever known, adding them like so many notches on a digital bedpost. Some people I know boast upwards of 1,400 friends. Really, what is the point of that? (Full disclosure: I have less than 150 Facebook friends.)

Others will ardently befriend you, then never post or share anything of their own. Why do they bother?   

Next are those who appear out of the clear blue, people I have never met who are obviously piggybacking on existing friendships. What else can explain being approached by complete strangers, who just happen to have hundreds of friends, including some of my own?

Perhaps the most annoying are acquaintances from the past who have something to promote — a book, band, event, school, career — which, it turns out, is the only reason you received the friend request in the first place. I was recently chastised by an author friend for inquiring about her health and welfare on her Facebook page. I was tartly informed that it existed only to present information about her books and appearances. How was I supposed to know? Needless to say, I’m no longer “following” her. In fact, I intend to “unfollow” any Facebook acquaintances who have violated the unwritten compact between its 1.35 billion monthly users. Namely, if you ask to be a friend, then behave like one. Still, I don’t plan to “unfriend” anyone, although some deserve it. That’s too drastic, irrevocable, nuclear. Downright unfriendly, even.

Besides, I might just get a notion to send them a birthday greeting on their Timeline.

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