Who Are Your Facebook Friends?

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    A couple of years ago when I became a travel blogger and my personal Facebook account turned from private to public, I was suddenly confronted with the need of increasing my numbers. Obviously, as a travel blogger I wanted a wider audience than just my personal friends, so I started joining interest groups for the purpose of interacting and communicating with like-minded people.

    As I began sending out friend requests to people whom I knew very little about, I also began receiving requests from total strangers who wanted to become my friends. Nothing unusual about that, you may think. And since in the virtual world of the Internet there is very little room for verification, the practice of accepting these requests without too much fuss is very common. Since I am part of many Facebook groups, about 90% of my friend requests come from people with whom I share many friends. This should be pretty reassuring, right? If my friends accepted them, they should be all right for me too. So in the interest of saving time, I should just click “confirm request” and go on with my life. Or should I?

    When I first started checking whom these requests come from, I was very surprised. While most of them seemed to be bloggers trying to connect with other bloggers, there were many who obviously had nothing to do with travel blogging. Well, I thought to myself, no big deal. Maybe they just like to read about travel, or maybe (just maybe!) they like to read what I write. Yea, wishful thinking! Immediately after approving them they would try to start a private message conversation. But the scary ones are those who seem to be somewhat connected with the travel industry. They display a clean profile picture and a nice travel photo on their cover, but if you go beyond that and start checking what they post, you’ll discover links to porn sites, or even worse, links to extremist websites advocating the use of violence, or promoting political causes.

    All the above would probably be just something you’d expect on the Internet, if these friend requests would be just random. But when you realize that you share at least 20-30 friends (sometimes even more) with each one of these dubious people, you begin wondering how come that none of your Facebook friends checked them out before approving them? Do they really want to be associated with these kind of websites? And no, the friends that I share with these people are not some random friends that I acquired carelessly. They are friends on whose blogs I comment, friends with whom I share posts and who are part of the same Facebook groups as I am. These common friends are YOU!

    If you are reading this post and think you have no reason for concern, good for you. You may be doing what you have to do.  But if you are in the habit of clicking “confirm request” based on a peaceful cover photo, a nice profile picture or the number of friends that you have in common with that person, think again. As precious as your time may be, you should check out your Facebook friend requests very carefully. While your number of friends on Facebook may be important, WHO these friends are matters way more.

    Truth is that Facebook has done a tremendous job in convincing us that we ought to have a bunch of online friends and followers to share our thoughts with. There has been too much importance placed on how many Facebook friends one should have in order to be considered successful. Some people even see this as a form of validation of how interested others are in what they post. But is that really so important?

    If you think I’m exaggerating, next time you get a friend request that seems dubious, check what friends you have in common with that person. You’ll be surprised to discover there are almost always the same friends who seem to accept friend requests without discerning who’s who.