To become comfortable with the new, learn from the old:FaceBook and the Phone-Book

Recently a friend informed me about how she ‘unfriends’ people in her FB list from time to time. These are mostly people who she doesn’t perceive any reason for them to be in her network. I thought she was an odd one out. But a small survey (among my FB network) revealed that 2/3rd of my 50 respondents deleted existing friend connections regularly.

I do admit that my FB network isn’t exactly restricted to friends. Many, in fact are less than acquaintances. If I run through the complete list, I am sure I won’t remember when I last interacted with at least 50% of the people. Worse for about some10% I even won’t know who they are!
However, it never really bothers me that there are people on my Facebook who aren’t really friends or acquaintances. For reasons I will explain here:

Think of a typical social interaction today – Say I meet a friend’s friend at a dinner. We talk and one of us suggests that we stay in touch. The next day s/he sends me an FB request. We never really interact after that and perhaps ever won’t but remain on each others’ FB.
Rewind 5 years – Same people. Similar meeting place. Similar conversations. One suggests we stay in touch. I take out my mobile phone, ask his/her number and give a missed call. Consequently we have each others’ numbers on our cellphone address books.
Rewind 20 years – We pull out our pocket telephone/address diaries and store (write) each others’ contact details down. ( Someone in the group is organized enough to carry a pen or we ask the bearer at the restaurant!)

At what stage did one delete these so called lapsed contacts from one’s phone or a diary. When one ran into space problems, or bought a new phone or a new diary and had to transfer contacts.

FB basically allows you to create a very elaborate phone diary with extensive details (of course access controlled) that you can link to one another. Yes FB in principal is nothing more than a digital manifestation of the good old telephone/address diary. Except that there is no limitations of size or memory.
Thinking of FB as a the new shared, crowd-sourced phone book, you could perhaps stop deleting your unwanted friends.
Of course do not forget to invoke your privacy settings when you add a connection!


Author: harshT

Assistant Professor

4 thoughts on “To become comfortable with the new, learn from the old:FaceBook and the Phone-Book”

  1. Great post!
    I think with FB we don’t just share contact details we also share some other details about our life. Sure we can create privacy settings -but still some of the info is available once a friend is added to your list.
    While earlier with mobile phones and diaries, we were only sharing the address to our doorstep. With FB we also give people a little access to a window to our house. what do you think?

    1. I agree Vartika but think of a phone book in a smart phone – you can enter multiple things, But you chose – do I give this Mr X my mobile number or just my landline number. Similarly with visiting cards – some people still write their cell nos and some people don’t.

      My post was more targeted at people who take pride in getting off FB, and almost think they have won a battle of sorts.

      But I feel the privacy settings will evolve to the level of each specific nugget being sharable with different people.

      1. Harsh,

        Once I add someone as a friend, (s)he can see my pics and/or has access to information which would have been the case earlier. I don’t know if privacy settings in FB allow per person access or not! If they do, let me know but if they dont, then I support ‘unfriending’ some people theory.

        P.S. – Did this exercise few weeks back for the first time ever though!

  2. You’ve stated the exact reasons why I still have my fb ‘friend’ list going and funnily enough, that’s the same logic I had given to a friend of mine a couple of weeks back about friending/unfriending/defriending/whatever.

    It is indeed a digital manifestation of the good old phone diary, with birthdays and hobbies and everything listed in one place. You still keep in touch with those you’d been in touch with earlier as often as possible and then some of those who may share the occasional hi and wassup with you.


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