Two blog posts that I would like all my Facebook “friends” to read are “An Open Letter to my Facebook Friends” and “Respectful discourse on Facebook”, as it might allay misconceptions and sets out rules of engagement for when people read what is posted on my page and if they wish to contribute.
I hadn’t realized this until I checked it out, but I have been on Facebook for over 8 years, becoming more active in the past 5. I now have 3489 friends, of which three quarters have become so in the past year. What has happened is that in the early days I would typically make 1 or 2 friend requests in a week and would receive the same, and so the number of friends rose gently, despite a few defrienders because of my rabid “right wing” views. The rise in number of friends has been exponential and nowadays I deal with 30+ friend requests each day, mostly from people I don’t know, from the Indian sub-continent and Africa. If I am honest, it has little to do with the world discovering what a great chap I am, yet I can’t say why exactly this is so. I project at this rate I may reach the 5000 “friends” ceiling Facebook imposes by the end of the year.
It begs the question how I deal with friend requests that in most cases come to me out of the blue. I try to process new requests within a day and when some message me afterward, I politely respond, albeit briefly, although I never take messenger calls as a matter of principle (and ignorance). I take on average 1 minute dealing with each request, which amounts to 30 minutes a day. As a general rule of thumb, for every two people I accept, one I reject (although that may change as I approach the magic 5000 mark). While not an exact science and I don’t always get it right, I adopt the following criteria, bearing in mind I usually know nothing about those making the requests, other than most are friends of friends:
I reject out of hand requests by ladies of the night, people who want to sell me something I don’t want, people who say too little about themselves on their profile or timeline, people who are profane or act inappropriately and those whose interests don’t appear to correspond to the things I am interested in.
I accept people who appear interesting (including those whose views and interests differ). I generally am sympathetic to Christian types, even from outside my own theological camp, and besides amassing a cohort of pastors and evangelists, I have on board apostles, prophets and bishops. To save time, I generally accept folk with 10+ mutual friends or a cursory glance leads me to want to take a chance.
Reading stuff on the page of my new friends is often illuminating and I regret I don’t have time usually to do much more than a superficial assimilation. A lot of the Christians I become friends with are involved in ministries, often mercy missions like orphanages. Some, especially from poor places, ask me, subtly and sometimes overtly, for financial support, to which I politely and firmly say no. I suspect for most of my new friends it will be the last I hear from them, but that is not always the case. It is humbling to realize how well off we are in my neck of the woods and learn what my new friends are going through. I like to say the following, although sometimes it is difficult, but real friendship is a wonderful gift.
There you have it … for all its faults and the toxic environments I sometimes encounter (see the aforementioned links) Facebook does serve a useful role in bringing the world closer together.