Defriend me!

How much should we be willing to share online with mere acquaintances?

Elizabeth Ireland

Facebook loves sharing. In its perfect world, every person would have a public profile. All likes would be shared, locations checked into and photographs tagged. Life would be recorded and shared.

ItâÄôs no big secret that Facebook makes significant changes to the website fairly often. Usually, those changes are geared toward making sharing easier. Translation: They make creeping easier. Just take a look at the upcoming feature, Timeline.

It essentially takes all of the separate pages of a profile  âÄî  the wall, the information, the pictures âÄî and combines them into a visual, scrollable scrapbook. It displays where youâÄôve been, what youâÄôve liked, what youâÄôve said, and pictures youâÄôve been tagged in for all to see.

ItâÄôs sort of creepy. And, letâÄôs be honest, pretty cool. But while IâÄôd be fine with my best friend having access to my personal scrapbook in that way, I donâÄôt know about casual acquaintances, coworkers, bosses, exes âÄî the list goes on.

ItâÄôs not that it shares new information; it significantly changes how the old information is shared. It takes creeping to a whole new level.

And it makes it all the more imperative that Facebook friend lists be carefully edited. That simple action makes navigating the overlap between real life and online social life easier.

I recently received a friend request from a supervisor at work. It put me in an awkward spot âÄî I felt that I couldnâÄôt deny the friend request without making real world interactions somewhat awkward, but I didnâÄôt want to give that person access to my online life.

I talked to my sister about it. âÄúDeny it,âÄù she said. âÄúHeâÄôll feel weird and wonâÄôt say anything about it.âÄù

Likewise, I doubt anyone would call me out if I defriended them. IâÄôll set aside my pride here and say that in most cases, they probably wouldnâÄôt even notice.

People âÄúfriendâÄù one another after meeting so that they can scope out each otherâÄôs profiles. ItâÄôs a great way to get a sense of who the other person is, but it takes all the fun out of getting to know them. Call me old fashioned, but wouldnâÄôt it be nice to get to know someone the traditional way? If you donâÄôt hit it off, you donâÄôt have to defriend them months later when you have forgotten how you know them. You just wouldnâÄôt âÄúfriendâÄù in the first place.

ThereâÄôs also the question of how much we really care about the details of other peopleâÄôs lives. Do you really want to know what several hundred people are thinking and feeling every day? Probably not. There are only about 20 people whose statuses I truly care to read.

With the upcoming Timeline feature, all of the random people youâÄôve met once at parties and never seen again over the years will have access to an extremely visual presentation of your life. If that doesnâÄôt make you uncomfortable, it should. It seems to me that each Facebook upgrade further desensitizes users to privacy concerns by slowly increasing the amount that we share. Taking a step back to think about what youâÄôre sharing with whom online could save you from trouble later on.

ItâÄôs easy to accumulate a mass of Facebook friends, especially for students who are constantly connecting with new people. But the amount of information that we are sharing online and the way that we are sharing it is changing. To protect your privacy, it is important for âÄúFacebook friendâÄù status to be a privilege, not a right.

Facebook loves sharing, and you should, too. But sharing too openly online is excessive and dangerous. Besides, if everyone shared his or her whole life online âĦ what would we have to talk about?