What Do You Owe Your Social Networking Pseudo-Friends?

The short answer to that question is: Very little.

The longer, more interesting answer was inspired by a question one of my real friends posed this week-end: She has a guy she doesn’t know very well on Facebook who is getting on her nerves. She wants to just block him, but she doesn’t know how to handle it. Does she owe him an email? Should she feel guilty about it? Would he get mad at her?

Here’s my response, which I never intended to make public. It’s ah, well, a bit on the ruthless side,

If I get the urge to waste my time by berating someone for annoying me on Twitter or Facebook, I just save myself the hassle by dropping the defriend hammer. I don’t write them and don’t explain anything to them. I have rarely noticed them complaining, probably because I don’t care enough to bother to look =D Just because they’re following me on Twitter or Facebook or write me a couple of emails doesn’t make them my real friend.

Too harsh? Not from where I’m sitting.

I have 74,749 followers in one Twitter account, 3,809 in another, and 2,344 friends on Facebook. On top of all that, I probably get 150 emails a day.

How could I keep up with all of these people even if I wanted to do it? There aren’t enough hours in the day — and let’s be honest: How many of them are genuinely friends or even acquaintances or business contacts? Percentage wise, very few. The rest are just random people. Does that sound insulting? Do you think I’m more than some random guy to most of these people? Would they take an hour out of their lives to help me if I needed it? If I died tomorrow, would they remember my name in a week? Of course not. You think it’s any different for you? It’s not. So, what do you owe those people? Nothing but the common courtesy you try to give other human beings.

So, what if one of them is being a jerk, creepy, or inappropriate? You could try to talk it out with him. You could get in a nasty fight over it — but since you don’t have a meaningful relationship with these people anyway, why bother? Why not just block them instead? There are advantages to that.

#1) It saves you time and mental energy. Why get irritated by someone you don’t respect?

#2) If you don’t know someone and one of your first experiences with him is his being a jerk, creepy, or inappropriate, what are the chances he’s going to become a friend? Not very high, right?

That means you have little to gain by continuing to interact with him and even less to lose by blocking him, right? So, don’t hesitate to drop that ban hammer and never look back.

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