Facebook friends, honest, I really like you. But, no. I won’t milk your cow or join Mafia Wars so you can take over the south side of Insanityville, where you’ve suddenly gone to live.
And in my household, if you throw food at me, somebody’s going to smack your hand.
Before you “de-friend” me (and when did “friend” become a verb?), I’d like to say that I love your family photos; the class reunion updates; and the funny stories about your kids. I even like to know what you’re doing at work and when you’ve made a really fabulous meal — or deal.
But this new technology gives us the ability to engage in the electronic equivalent of eating with our mouths open or talking through a movie. Sometimes these bad habits can even hit your friends in the pocketbook, which is not a nice thing to do.
We’d never do these things in real life because we’d know they were impolite, annoying and hurtful. But perhaps because so many of us are new to social cyberspace, we’re not as aware of how we’re bugging our Facebook friends.
Here, according to my informal survey, are the 3 most annoying (and costly) things we do on Facebook and how we can handle them differently.
Farmville: Some 60 million of you are building cute little farms in cyberspace and swapping animated livestock. In fact, so many of you are spending real money to buy and build pretend barns and corn fields that Facebook has created it’s own currency. And Farmville is just one of more than a dozen games that people spend hours playing on Facebook. What makes the games so popular? According to both Time Magazine and the web-site Cracked, Farmville manipulates you into playing.
To be sure, no one should tell you that you can’t spend your hard-earned cash to buy pretend machine guns to protect your pixelated turf in Mafia Wars. But the constant updates generated so many complaints that Facebook just announced changes that will restrict the number of posts sent to non-gamers.
Still, the games encourage players to manipulate their friends into playing with pleas like: “My cow is lost! Please help me find her!” Or “Help me build my barn/plant my crops/fix my tractor!” Seriously, you asked for less help when your mother was in the hospital.
It makes us feel guilty to ignore you. After all we love you, but we’re working and Bessy, the lost cow, is not real. If you promise to stop asking us for help on a farm that exists only in cyberspace, we promise to help when you need us in real life. In the meantime, please stop sending us goats.
Chronic “like”rs: Some people seem to “like” everything and need affirmation that you do too. First you get the message: “Suzie likes rainbows and wants you to like them too!” And you think…Uhm…Okay. Seems silly, but who doesn’t like rainbows? Click.
Barely a second goes by before Suzie is liking unicorns and walks on the beach and sailboats and dolphins. She wants you to click the “like” button too! Right about now my thoughts turn sinister:“I am not a Care Bear.”
What’s this whole “like” thing about anyway? Marketing, according to Justin Brookman, senior fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C. He says the current “like” button is the latest iteration of “fan” pages, which are aimed at selling everything from books to blogs.
When you click on “like,” your profile information suddenly changes to add unicorns and rainbows and Mama Di’s Restaurant and Target and Black & Decker skill saws. Pretty soon, your Facebook account becomes a fast-clicking billboard for a panoply of products, drawing advertisers to you like flies.
Worse, says Brookman, is that malicious programmers know how easily we’re all affected by habit and peer pressure. So they create buttons that say: “click like to see something cool.” If you get that message from a friend, you’re likely to click on the “cool” thing your friend recommended and find out that it just hacked into your system and installed worms and malware that are not cool at all. One of these worms, by the way, is going to send an identical message to all of your friends, so you can infect them too.
Like as many things as you like in the real world, but use Facebook’s “like” button sparingly.
Impolitic Tagging: You went to a party, had a few too many drinks and ended up napping under the table, drooling into the host’s Labrador. Naturally, somebody snapped a cellphone picture and posted it on Facebook.
The photo is funny. Your friends want to see it. Posting an embarrassing photo of a friend is not the crime. The crime is “tagging” the photo so that your friend’s employer, or prospective employer, can easily find it too.
Jodi Schneider, a veteran recruiter and trainer who writes the blog DCWorks, tells all job applicants to “scrub” their Facebook profiles before sending out resumes. But one of the most pernicious problems for young applicants are friends, who never think twice before tagging an impolitic photo.
For those who don’t know, “tagging” just means that you’ve labeled a photo with a person’s name. Once labeled, that photo is going to show up on the “tagged” person’s Facebook account, whether they put it there or not.
That could keep your buddy from getting work, said Schneider. So post all the photos you want, but use some discretion about identifying a friend acting badly.