The dinner guest test: on rejoining facebook

Just over a year ago, I blogged about why I was leaving facebook.

I’ve just rejoined. I thought I’d explain why and how I’ll be using facebook differently than before.

  1. My Mom keeps asking when I’m going to join again. She uses it all the time to keep in touch with my aunts, uncles and cousins. She’d very much like me to do this, too. I’m also making her (and a few other family members) upload photos twice — once to flickr and once to facebook. You can only be a jackass for so long.
  2. Close friends use it to organise events. I’m making them email me separately to invite me to these events. Again, you can only be a jackass for so long.
  3. As a UX Designer, I’m intensely curious about what facebook is up to. There are only so many blog posts you can read before you have to go see for yourself. I have immense respect for the designers and developers working there, even if I profoundly disagree with their stance on privacy.

I won’t be using facebook like I did before. I’m going to be fairly strict about who I friend. This is my current set of rules:

  1. Family
  2. Friends I’ve known for over five years
  3. Friends with whom I’ve had dinner (either at their house or mine)

This isn’t how everyone uses facebook. Because of this, I’m running the risk of being a jackass to a whole new group of people by turning down friend requests.

There are several spheres of my life, but they generally fall into private and public. I still feel that this distinction is important. I still value those conversations in the living room I talked about in my original post. And I still feel that they are richer and more meaningful when shared between close friends. I know this isn’t how facebook as a company sees it. Their position seems to be that a life that’s not lived completely in the open is somehow dishonest. I think that a life lived completely in the open is a fiction.

I’m using the dinner guest test to deal with this. I don’t get invited to dinner with everyone I work with or meet at event. And I don’t event everyone I meet to dinner, either. I’m treating facebook in the same way. At least for the moment. I hope I don’t offend too many people in doing so.