Am I a ghost? Can anyone hear me?
October 11, 2011 9:46 AM   Subscribe

You know those facebook friends who you rarely hear from? How weird is it to ask them why it is you never hear from them?

Sorry this got long.

On my facebook page I like to post interesting articles and stuff I come across on the web or opinions that I have because I get really sick of the same small-talk over and over. I'm sick of having the "hi how are you fine how are you fine" kind of chats. So I post these things in an attempt to start conversations about something other than how we both are. I also post things about my accomplishments and the accomplishments of my friends and family and stuff about my opinions and what I'm up to. I try to post things that invite response, not like "Eating a sandwich for lunch" and I don't spam my page.

I get a few bites but from the same few people. Other people, mostly my close-in-age cousins, who I see as online all the time, have never even said so much as hello to me. Even when I post things about my other family members who aren't on FB and whose accomplishments are relevant to their interests!

Personally I don't see the point in having them on there at all if they don't like interacting with me. To me that's the point of FB. Not because I'm that interested in finding out when people are available in FB chat. I don't like feeling knowingly relegated to someone's "Museum of the Past". I don't like having to wonder if I've been blocked or unsubscribed. I get that just because they're family doesn't mean we have to be friends. Then why do we have to be FB friends?

I want to either unfriend them or just message them and say "Hey, how come you never interact with me? Why are we FB friends?" I would just really like to know what they think. The thought of doing this does seem a little weird and confrontational so I wanted to get some opinions.

This is anonymous because I don't want people to know how weird I am about this particular thing.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (53 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I never interact with 95% of my facebook friends list. I suspect that many others are the same. It seems pretty normal to me.

Why would you need to unfriend them? I think it is kind of weird and confrontational to ask them about it, and kind of passive aggressive to just remove them.

Have you send them any direct messages about any topics? Do you comment on their stuff?

You might be taking the label of "friends" on facebook a bit too literally. It's really more of a contacts list. If you want the sort of interaction you're describing, I'd suggest seeking out some good web forums. Facebook is for lurkers, dumb quizzes and annoying applications.
posted by utsutsu at 9:53 AM on October 11, 2011 [32 favorites]

I am mainly on Facebook to receive and not necessarily initiate communication. Being friends with someone through Facebook, for me, signifies publicly that me and this person are friends IRL, not necessarily that I want to interact with that person through Facebook. It also helps if I ever lose their phone number or email address, so it's a little like an address book in that way.
posted by ofthestrait at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2011

For many people, friending someone is the equivalent of saying "oh, hi, I remember you" and not "I think you're cool and want to be actively in touch with you!" It's like writing down a name in an easily-browsable telephone directory. I'll probably never talk to you, I think, but it is polite to take down your number.

For a site I spend more than a few hours a week on, I don't give a shit about Facebook. I look around, see if anyone posted anything interesting or funny, drop a witty comment or answer a question, and I'm out. I have 300-something friends and I could not give a damn about what 90% of them are doing and they don't even show up on my wall. I know that almost everyone I know who uses Facebook is the exact same way.

Clearly, you have a much different conception of what Facebook is and does and means. Don't like how someone is treating you? Unfriend them! You don't have to be Facebook friends with anyone you don't want to be. Asking why they're not paying more attention to you will only serve to alienate them more. I would not hesitate to silently de-friend someone openly asking me why I am not in more frequent touch with them. Because if I wanted to, I would be, and I don't feel like having a conversation with someone about how unimportant they are to me. And, like I said, 90% of my facebook friends are unimportant to me most people I know agree with this line of thinking.
posted by griphus at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2011 [22 favorites]

Do you know that these people are interacting with others on FB? I know some folks who just aren't very chatty there, but do like to read what their friends are doing. It may not be a slight on you, but just the way they are using the site.
posted by blurker at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Please don't email people to ask them why they never interact with you. That's way too confrontational and accusatory. If you want to interact with them, message them in a friendly way and comment on the things they post. If they don't get back to you after that, well, maybe they like knowing how you are and/or having an easy way to contact you, but aren't interested in more than that.
posted by orange swan at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2011 [12 favorites]

The thought of doing this does seem a little weird and confrontational

That's a perfect description. Don't do this. Nothing good will come of it. On the contrary, it'll be counterproductive if anything, since it'll lead to awkwardness, hostility, and/or resentment, which will make people less interested in socializing with you.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with not interacting with everyone you're friends with on Facebook. Facebook interactions should be totally positive and voluntarily. If you feel any need to try to coerce people to socialize with you on Facebook, maybe the website is just too stressful for you.

Remember, any given thing you post on Facebook isn't even going to be seen by most of your Facebook friends. Here's an experiment: I have a Facebook friend who has well over 1,000 friends. He did a post simply asking for anyone who saw his post to leave a comment saying, "I saw this." There was no other content to the post. I believe around 30 or 40 people left a comment. Now, there were probably some people who saw it but didn't bother to follow his instructions, but even if 100 people saw it, that's still less than 10% of his Facebook friends.

Again, what you're talking about doing would be very weird and a bad idea. Don't do it.
posted by John Cohen at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

On review, etc. etc.
posted by blurker at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2011

People interact with Facebook in very different ways. I think it would be rude for you to ask someone why they don't use a very specific form of communication in the exact same way you do. Give them a call if you want to stay in touch.
posted by auto-correct at 9:55 AM on October 11, 2011 [5 favorites]

Maybe they don't want to talk with you on Facebook. Whenever I don't talk to someone on Facebook (or in real life) it's usually because I don't want to.

It is not my preferred form of communication. If you have something actually really relevant or important to me to say, you should call me.

Speaking for my bitter self, at least, if someone was constantly bombarding me with hints that I should talk to them all the time, I would think them pushy. If they confronted me and said "Why don't you msg me on Facebook more often?" I would think them pretty funny.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:56 AM on October 11, 2011

One thing I try to remind myself: other people don't necessarily use Facebook the same way that I do. Less frequently, more chattily, more app-ily, less copy-and-paste, more links, less check-in, etc. Not better or worse, just different.

On that note: I wouldn't see it as confrontational (though tone's important, of course). I might, however, see it as weird. Or not how I usually observe people using FB, anyway.

I'd also ask, rhetorically I guess, what you're hoping the end result will be. Do you want these folks to interact more with you on FB? Do you want to not be their FB friends? If it's the latter, that's easy to accomplish. The former, though, is probably more difficult, and asking 'Why are we FB friends?' might not be the best way to get there.
posted by box at 9:56 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

People on Facebook aren't there to be your audience for the stuff you publish on your page. If there's someone you'd like to interact with more, then you should communicate with them directly.
posted by grouse at 9:57 AM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

What kinds of "accomplishments" do you want people to acknowledge? I'll usually chime in if someone gets engaged, but less than that it all strikes me as superficial communication so I don't bother. If I engage with people outside of facebook then it will come up there, and if I don't engage with someone in the real world, what's it matter if I do on the site?

I'm a facebook member with a number of friends on it, but hardly ever use the site. I'll occasionally browse pictures of people I remember from high school just to see what they're up to since I'm mildly curious. I also want to be connected in case of, for example a school reunion, or maybe they're coming across the country for something and need somewhere to stay in Boston.

Basically, people use the site for different things. I have no interest in discussing opinions or commenting on status updates, and don't log on for weeks at a time so a lot of conversations are old anyway. However, I still extract some value from being "friends." That said, I probably wouldn't notice and definitely wouldn't care if someone de-friended me because we used the site in different ways, so do what you want.
posted by losvedir at 9:57 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's hard to know for sure, but maybe some people use Facebook differently from the way you do. Maybe some of the people you're "friends" with on the site have chosen not to receive every single update about you in their feed. I know I've set my own Facebook preferences up that way. There are plenty of people I want to be connected to, but I don't want to hear about every single thing they post. I've learned not to take it personally when something I post doesn't get any comments.

To answer your question, I think it's a little weird to ask people why they're not paying more attention to you.
posted by emelenjr at 9:58 AM on October 11, 2011

It would just be unpleasant and serve no purpose to send a message like. Different people use Facebook for different purposes. Maybe they just like looking at photos of people who go to school with them. As to your wanting to know what they think of you: I think the reality is people don't spend any time thinking of people outside their immediate environment- so don't spend time worrying about what they think, they don't think.
posted by Paquda at 10:00 AM on October 11, 2011

the only person i have ever had make a comment like this on facebook is my hyperdramatic cousin who tends to send poison pen letters to people every so often. She was mad because people would send her a friend request and then not ask how she was all the time. It was typical for her, but definitely not typical for 99% of my facebook friends.

if you want direct contact from certain people, you need to send them direct messages. They can't read your mind and know this is your attempt to make a connection. A post for all 899 friends is just that - a post to 899 friends. Some of them may see it and choose not to comment, some may comment, it may get lost in between requests for game crap on others newsfeeds. Some may read it, love it and have to be somewhere and not comment. If it is not a personal note to someone, you cannot take it personally when they don't comment. You are setting people up to fail your test because they don't know its a test.
posted by domino at 10:03 AM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

I could be one of your cousins. (Hi!) I pretty much only log on to Facebook:

1) When someone sends me a message or invite or friends me, and I feel the need to respond directly

2) When I am going to a social event involving people I haven't seen for a while, and want to scope out how people are doing beforehand so I don't put my foot in it (see also: how I knew an ex had just gotten married *before* walking into the party -- this is my all-time favorite thing about Facebook)

3) When I need to contact someone I haven't contacted for a while and might not have contact info for

I sometimes lurk around to see how other people are doing, but it's rare for me to feel the need to comment. (Honestly, most days I don't even remember I'm on Facebook.) The people I've friended back are people I know or have known in real life and don't intensely dislike. I've friended former bullies. It's a pretty low bar.

If you want to interact more with your same-age cousins: Have you tried emailing them or calling to talk? I enjoy talking with my relatives. It just doesn't occur to me to do it on Facebook.
posted by pie ninja at 10:10 AM on October 11, 2011

If you want someone to comment, have you tried tagging them in the post? "@instamatic, did you hear Cousin X just got a Fullbright? Can you believe it?" It's a little weird-- why not do it in chat?-- but they'll know you expect a response, at least.
posted by instamatic at 10:11 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a Facebook lurker, I check it multiple times a day. I reply to anything that catches my eye. Most of my friends are not. I have family and friends all over the globe so FB keeps everybody in one place and easy for me to stay in touch with.

I'd say 1/3 of my friend list are the people I interact with often and the other 2/3 are just there. Those people are the ones who only have FB to keep up with family stuff, don't have computer access at home, can't log on FB at work, or just don't think to check more than once every few months.

The only people on my FB friends lists are people I actually like (or I'm related to so I can keep up with family events.) Even if they're not on very often or don't interact with me I keep them on so I can keep up with what's going on in their lives. When my best friend from 9th grade lost her brother and adopted his four kids I wanted to know so I could send her my condolences and be there for her when she needed help. When my second cousin has a baby I want to know so I can update my family records. When my friend from High School started an Atheist Charity I wanted to know so I could support her and the good work she does.

I keep people on FB purely for my own purposes. If they bug me (like spouting politics I don't agree with or insulting people) I either hide them (for family) or unfriend them.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2011

I want to either unfriend them or just message them and say "Hey, how come you never interact with me? Why are we FB friends?" I would just really like to know what they think.

Exactly why I stopped using Facebook. This sort of confrontational interact with me or I will delete you! is childish behavior. Social networks in some sense are passive forms of communication. You post something, I see it and get a sense of what you are thinking about without actively engaging with you. Its a low energy way to keep in touch. Some people are more active that others.

If you wanted more people to comment and interact with you on links that you post, get on twitter and find people just like you. That's what it's for. I have a twitter account for work related topics and the people I follow are the kind that actively engage in discussion so it works out well for both of us.

With FB, the problem is that your 'friends' can be real life friends, family, acquaintances, co-workers you cannot delete because that would cause drama, people you've met once but somehow felt the urge to add you etc etc. In real life you wouldn't engage with someone you just met at the same level as how you engage with your family. FB ignores those boundaries.

To me that's the point of FB.

But not to me. I mean really, if I were on FB now I would see a whole bunch of religious nonsense, stuff about why Obama sucks, why climate change is all made up etc. Do I really want to engage with those morons? Nope. This is why FB is inherently flawed. It means different things to different people. You can't force someone to use FB the way you use it.
posted by babbyʼ); Drop table users; -- at 10:13 AM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Oh yeah, and with all the FB updates if you don't interact with somebody often you might be hidden on their feed. You have to go in and request to see everyone. They might not be replying because they don't see you.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:14 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Commenting on other people's Facebook posts is really an odd thing, if you think about it. It's not like joining small group conversation at a party; it's like having someone raise a topic of conversation in front of an audience and then ask for volunteers to come up onstage and discuss it with them. It makes sense that people would be less inclined to do this the more substantive and controversial the topic.

I have Facebook connections who I very much like and whose opinions interest me. Sometimes they post about topics that I would be very interested to discuss with them in person or one on one. That doesn't mean that I want to have a performative conversation in front of all of their FB friends, most of whom are unknown to me.
posted by yarrow at 10:15 AM on October 11, 2011 [10 favorites]

I regularly unfriend people I never hear from or never have the desire to talk to on facebook. I don't think it bothers people, and the couple people that did actually care just re-added me. I do that for privacy reasons since I don't want a thousand strangers having access to my FB. You could try doing a thorough de-friending if it makes you feel better.

If you don't want risk "burning bridges" you gotta sit back and chill and realize most aren't interested in your random musings or articles whatever else you feel the need to share with the world on your status. Social networking has created the expectation that we should be receiving instantaneous affirmation for how cool and in interesting we are 24/7, but most people don't care, or don't have time to care even if they like you. The people who would be interested in those issues you post about might be out living life making things happen. I try to limit my FB activity for that specific reason. Also, some people like myself prefer talking to friends IRL or on the phone since typing it out feels so sterile. Perhaps trying limited your FB activity to see if your attitude towards it changes.
posted by sunnychef88 at 10:16 AM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Remember that your posts don't show up in every friend's feed. Something to do with the algorithms, etc. So, if you need interaction, comment on that friend's post or wall, and then that person should move up the interaction chain.
I think of FB as my digital open house, and don't worry about who didn't drop by.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:16 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Even when I post things about my other family members who aren't on FB and whose accomplishments are relevant to their interests!

My cousins are on my facebook for the same reason they were invited to my wedding. It would have been rude not to do it, and I don't *dislike* them. However, we have nothing in common, aren't very close, and I sort of don't give a shit about their lives (and believe me, the feeling is mutual.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 10:23 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Personally I don't see the point in having them on there at all if they don't like interacting with me. To me that's the point of FB.

But, everyone has a different opinion of what the point of FB is and why they are there. If someone isn't there for the same reasons as you are, it doesn't necessarily mean they have just relegated you to the museum of the past.

"Hey, how come you never interact with me? Why are we FB friends?"

I don't know why this is for your cousins, but I could tell you why it would be for me, to give an example of a different opinion.

-Right after college, lots of people lost their college email addresses. Even now when people switch jobs their email addresses often change, as do phone numbers. Being friends with someone FB is a good backup way to always be able to reach them.

-FB is the main way that most people I know who are my age invite others to bigger parties and events.

-I will probably talk to people on FB in the same proportion that I would talk to them in real life. So if we normally wouldn't talk much IRL (like ex-classmates) then why would it be different on FB? But it's still nice to be able to do so occasionally.

-If you're someone who I do talk to a lot, then I am probably doing it through other channels anyway, like in person, over the phone, etc., so there's no point to doing it through FB specifically.

-I also like looking at the photo albums and links people post but that's at will and when I have time and find them interesting. Very often not all 3 factors are not there and that's probably the case for most people.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:25 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Very few people are friend-friends with more than a handful of their Facebook friends. For me, being friends on Facebook means something like "I knew you at one point, we're cool, I'm not sure I'd recognize you on the street but I guess I'd lend you bus fare if you needed it."

It might seem like some people have a clique of superbuddies, but usually they're current real-life friends who've just brought the conversation to Facebook. Same goes if you have a lot of Facebook friends from high school that are all friends with each other: you might think they're all still BFFs and you're on the outside, but the reality is nearly all of them are as distant from each other as you are from them.

Additionally, your strategy of trying to invite discussion via your wall posts may be backfiring. If someone dominates my feed with constant links or updates, I'm likely to hide them.

And nthing that people use Facebook differently. I "like" (urgh) a few local businesses that use Facebook as their primary means of keeping customers updated, and I'll check in on a couple people's status updates, but I can't remember the last time I've had a personal conversation via Facebook.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:27 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would find this extremely weird. The few times someone in my life has done something like this, I have recoiled. I don't know how to respond, and it makes me feel a lot of anxiety about interacting with that person in the future, because what if I'm still not interacting in The Correct Way? And why is there so much drama? I should probably avoid them in case they freak out again.

Lots of people have mentioned this, but I think you may have a different sense of what Facebook is for than many people.

I think that for many people, Facebook has two components:

1) People you are actually friends with, your mom, etc. People you are close to and interact with fairly regularly. Facebook is an adjunct to or substitute for phone calls, or one-on-one emails.
2) People you know vaguely, very vaguely have met once, etc. For a lot of people, this is pretty much their address book. You don't dislike these people or anything, they just fall outside of your monkeysphere. If Facebook were a party, the people in the first group are your friends, the people in this group are just other people at the party. You nodded at them when you came in. You may briefly chat with some dude about the hummus. But you don't spend all night talking to them. There's nothing personal or unfriendly about that.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 10:32 AM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Facebook is sort of like your personalized Yellow Pages. Why have every single phone number listed in there that you might need, if you're not going to call them every day? Because it's a listing - a dynamic listing full of constantly updated and esoteric information and photos and links, sure, but a listing nevertheless, in case some day you do want to interact.

Your fretting sounds deeper than FB; it's "I don't like feeling knowingly relegated to someone's "Museum of the Past". I don't like having to wonder if I've been blocked or unsubscribed" that is deeply bothering you.

You are worried about being irrelevant, you worry about being ignored. These are legit and modern worries about having a voice that matters and surviving as a lone being in the universe. But don't take it out on your "friends." It's not their job to constantly confirm that you exist and that you matter at this very moment. We're all "much too alone in this world, yet not alone." It's not going to be a "like" that makes you real. Pick up the phone and make plans to meet someone for lunch or a walk or a weekend visit. It's the moment that makes you real and heard and connected.
posted by sestaaak at 10:33 AM on October 11, 2011 [6 favorites]

Commenting on other people's Facebook posts is really an odd thing, if you think about it.

Yes it is. I have several friends I've known my entire life, but I would never comment on their Facebook because they have 500 friends and knowing that triggers my social phobia.

The question that comes to mind is are you commenting on these people's posts? In that way facebook reminds me of flickr, where commenting on other's photos is the best way to encourage interaction.
posted by Lorin at 10:34 AM on October 11, 2011

Someone people don't check Facebook 25/8. I personally only look at it a few times a month.
posted by dgeiser13 at 10:37 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely don't confront people about not interacting with you. I barely even use facebook these days and would be pretty weirded out and annoyed if someone asked me why I never interact with them(even friends I see regularly - if I want to comment on your updates, I will). When I do get on, I barely comment on random updates unless either it's an article about something I'm interested in at the time, or if I talk to them a lot outside of facebook.

On the other hand, it was very nice several weeks ago when a friend I haven't talked to in years randomly IMed me during one of the rare times I was actually on the site. We chatted for a bit and decided that we would get together next time I'm in town. If there are certain people you'd like to get in touch with, maybe send them a message, but have it be something along the lines catching up, not immediately asking them why they never comment on your status updates.

This could just be me, but if I haven't talked to you in a really, really long time, the most you're going to get out of me is a "like" for whatever you've posted.
posted by fromageball at 10:39 AM on October 11, 2011

A network is not constantly pinging itself at every node. You communicate with the closest nodes with regularity, and occasionally you ping one further away. This is efficient and natural.
posted by carsonb at 10:43 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm guessing you're the same guy who posted a very similar question about Facebook a few months ago. I won't link to it here to respect your anonymity. One of the things that was abundantly clear in that post, and seems to be true in this one is that you're expecting Facebook to build relationships for you that don't already exist. For example, do you talk to these cousins weekly in person or on the phone? Did you ever? If not, then why do you expect Facebook to magically change things?

Also, the simplest explanation is that the stuff you're posting just isn't that interesting to people.
posted by MsMolly at 10:52 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

If someone did that to me, I'd think it was very weird. I agree with everyone above suggesting that you probably have different expectations about social networking than your "friends" do. I'm not sure that I understand why this is bothering you, exactly—why let Facebook be such a source of stress? It's a tool; it is what you make it. If you really only want to be "friends" with people who don't respond regularly, then you could just unfriend them. I don't see any benefit to being confrontational about it. That said, limiting who is in your social network doesn't seem to get at the heart of it. The thing about Facebook and other social networks, in my opinion, is that they offer the illusion of connection and closeness without any of the real substance behind those concepts. Frankly (and I don't mean to seem rude), I think you might need to spend less time worrying about being validated by responses on Facebook and more time building/enhancing your relationships in a more meaningful manner. In the end, isn't that far more fulfilling?
posted by divisjm at 10:53 AM on October 11, 2011

"So I post these things in an attempt to start conversations about something other than how we both are. I also post things about my accomplishments and the accomplishments of my friends and family and stuff about my opinions and what I'm up to. I try to post things that invite response, not like "Eating a sandwich for lunch" and I don't spam my page."

I don't mind if people post RARELY about SIGNIFICANT accomplishments, but if people are constantly posting, "Named employee of the month!" or "My toddler won best in show!" or "My dog can read!" I tend to roll my eyes since that is clearly not sharing their life; that is POSING for a perfect life. I'm in the baby-having years and my friends and I call that sort of FB posting "performative parenting." People also have performative relationships. People who have to go bragging how perfect they are in public all the time are off-putting.

People who post "opinions" frequently typically end up hidden from my feed. I'm on facebook for cute baby pictures and job updates and humorous stories, not for your vehement opinion of the Tea Party. If it's more than monthly, you're probably going to end up hidden unless we're really, really close. If I want vitriol with my breakfast I can find that elsewhere on the web.

I have 300+ friends but only regularly interact with a pretty small number via facebook, either because I talk with them in person, or because it's just a loose "keeping in touch" relationship.

I had someone actually message me to ask me why I wasn't posting to her more on FB, and the truth was, I'd hidden her from my feed and restricted her access to my posts, because she was like a freaking stalker the way she commented on everything I posted, and everything everyone commented on my posts, and was always trying to engage me in deep conversations on a superficial medium. We hadn't been particularly close during the time in my life when I knew her in person, and part of the reason was that she has boundary issues in person as well. So I wasn't that keen to be BFFs on facebook when we weren't really close at any point in real life. (And to be honest, I responded to her that I "just wasn't using facebook as much as before," which was loosely true, but only very loosely. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but she was being so stalkery that my IRL friends were mentioning to me my "facebook stalker." She wasn't just creeping me out, she was creeping out my friends who didn't even know her.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:01 AM on October 11, 2011 [3 favorites]

Oh my. There are a variety of reasons that I don't "initiate" conversations with people "on facebook." The most pertinent of these is that I am busy interacting in my daily life and, uh, keeping my shit together.

If I want to have a conversation with someone, I drop them a line specifically. Rarely will I contact someone about a link they posted. That's because I figure if they wanted to have a conversation with me specifically they would have dropped me a line, or called me and said, "Hey, bilabial, I saw this article, video, whatever, and it made me think of you/wonder what you thought about it!"

Facebook satisfies my need to see things, but does not give me any feeling of having interacted with folks. If someone sent me a facebook message asking me why I don't interact with them on Facebook I'd be wondering, mostly, why aren't you interacting with me more in real life, if you're so dang interested?

That said, I'm considering giving up facebooking, because it's just not that productive for me. I'm wary of posting to it, even though mine is pretty well (I think, they change things so often it's hard to be sure) locked down.
posted by bilabial at 11:06 AM on October 11, 2011

I like reading about Facebook friends' accomplishments and what interests them, but I will very rarely post direct comments on them. In practice it usually means I know what topics to bring up the next time we meet in person.
posted by RobotHero at 11:10 AM on October 11, 2011

Personally I don't see the point in having them on there at all if they don't like interacting with me.

Then don't. If you don't want to be Facebook friends with people who are not your real friends, don't accept friend requests from people who are not your friends.

To me that's the point of FB.

But not to most of the other people on there.

I don't like feeling knowingly relegated to someone's "Museum of the Past". I don't like having to wonder if I've been blocked or unsubscribed.

Well, tough. Does it really matter whether they are interested in your stuff or not?

I get that just because they're family doesn't mean we have to be friends. Then why do we have to be FB friends?

You don't! They probably friended you because they were vaguely interested to check out what you look like these days or in reading what you are up to occasionally, or because you friended them and they didn't want to be rude.

If you want to become better friends with them nothing's stopping you, but a broadcast mechanism isn't a good way to initiate friendships with individuals.
posted by emilyw at 11:17 AM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's not a horrible and difficult thing to say "Hey $cousin, haven't heard from you lately! How's life?".

Communication is a two-way street. If you want to talk to someone, TALK TO THEM. Don't hypothesize about the infinite variations of why they won't talk to you first. If they don't respond, then (and only then) can you assume there's a reason that they're not talking to you.

Still, even that doesn't mean they don't WANT to talk to you. It might be as simple as they are only on Facebook to chat with their SO during work hours, or they don't really know how to work the app on their iPhone. There are a million reasons that have nothing to do with the fact that they might think you're a horrible person, or that you've done something to wrong or insult them.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 11:33 AM on October 11, 2011

I use facebook 100% for being invited to events, and if it wasn't for that, I'd be off. I don't post anything and I aggressively detag, because my privacy is important to me. You want to talk, send me an email (not a fb message) or call me. I don't like or trust it as a corporation and I especially wouldn't put my philosophical or political opinions on it for just that reason. I'm sure I'm not alone in not wanting all my personal feelings either in semi-public or in the hands of Fb.
posted by cobaltnine at 11:40 AM on October 11, 2011

Posting a status update on Facebook is (at least for me, and for a substantial number of people I've discussed this issue with) the online equivalent of putting a sign on your front lawn. Therefore, to me, your question is the equivalent of asking, "I put a 'Mitt Romney for President' sign on my front lawn, and also a sign saying 'I lost 50 pounds with Weight Watchers; Ask Me How!' Why haven't any of my friends driven past my house and come up to my front door to tell me what they think of my signs?" Possible answers include that they didn't see it, that they didn't have anything productive to say about it, or that they prefer their interactions with people to be something other than commenting on other people's lawn signs.

Facebook wants to be the hub of everyone's social interactions. But for many of us, it's just never going to be, because we don't want those kinds of social interactions. I don't want my friendships with people to consist of public conversations about things they choose to post on the internet. I especially don't want that in light of the face that Facebook is a huge corporation with a habit of changing its privacy policies with little notice or ability to opt out. If you want to be friends with people, do friendly things: call them, email them, plan activities and invite them. But don't get hostile with them about their unwillingness to publicly engage with your lawn signs, no matter how awesome you believe those lawn signs to be.
posted by decathecting at 11:48 AM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know someone who got weird and confrontational with his facebook friends. He made the announcement via status update, threatening to cull anyone who didn't directly interact with him on a regular basis (per his definition, "at least once a week," with exceptions made for people he was especially fond of). He came across as altogether pompous, vain, and high maintenance. Not surprisingly, the only person upset by the cuts he made was... himself. He was butthurt that no one scrambled to meet his approval. Also not surprisingly, many of his former facebook friends were so put off by his bizarre behavior that they started steering clear of him in real life. It suffices to say that the overall effect on his social life was a big fat negative.

If someone really wants my attention on facebook, I expect them to post something on my wall or send me a private message. Likewise, I don't expect people to show an interest in my life if I haven't shown an interest in theirs. Do you make an effort to reach out to friends in a more personal manner? Careful not to go "fishing" though, the aforementioned facebook friend used to do that and it was painfully obvious that he was trolling for attention rather than showing a genuine interest.

Anon, it's worrying that you place so much importance on facebook to affirm relationships and provide validation for your opinions and achievements. I hope you realize now that calling people out over facebook won't address your problem, but I also hope you'll do some soul searching to find out why facebook is so important to you. Does it help to know that these perceived slights by facebook friends don't seem to be anything personal? Maybe you're taking the whole thing too seriously. Or are you holding yourself up to facebook friends who always get tons of comments on their posts, and wondering why you don't receive the same degree of attention? Some social circles are simply more active on facebook than others. I know lots of people who have very healthy social lives and dead facebook pages. Are your real life friends not giving you the support and validation you're looking for? If so, I'd recommend giving facebook a break for a while and putting your efforts toward cultivating real life relationships. If an audience is what you're looking for, start tweeting or blogging on a platform where you will garner followers.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:33 PM on October 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hey. I feel for you here. Online interactions are tricky. They can be a satisfying way to connect (Facebook allows you to actually get to know people you might otherwise stay permanently at a nodding-acquaintance level with); they can also be profoundly lonely when you're watching everyone else interact with each other but you're wondering why it seems no one is connecting with you. It's hard not to take it personally, especially if social interactions can make you a little anxious or awkward-feeling (and honestly I think this is true of most people; they're just careful not to let it show. After all, here you are, posting this question anonymously so no one will know you're thinking about this!).

When you're inside your own head and you're sensitive to others' reactions to you, you're often looking at interactions (or non-interactions) and reading meta-levels to them, because you yourself know that you operate on those levels with other people: you don't enjoy being around John, so you never do more than say "hi" briefly back to him when he greets you; you think Sandra is a little overbearing, so you are always too busy to go to her parties when she invites you. You don't want to SAY these things, because it's awkward and confrontational, but you do try to send signals for them to drop their interactions with you, in ways that feel ambiguous and make you feel like you're avoiding being unpleasant - or receiving unpleasantness.

When you flip that around, it's really easy to wonder if Rita doesn't say more than "hi" to you because she is trying to tell you she doesn't enjoy being around you? And Jim just turned down your invite again - is he really too busy to come to your party, or is he trying to let you know he doesn't want to be invited anymore?

It's quite easy to get paranoid about this kind of thing once you start turning it over in your head. It feels awkward, and then maybe a little infuriating, that you care about what someone else thinks but they don't seem to care at all about you - it's an asymmetry that will throw you off and make you feel bad - of course sometimes it feels like it would be so much easier if you just REALLY KNEW what other people thought of you. You're viewing it through a very narrow lens, and why wouldn't you? You're the most important person in your life. Once you get in this mind-trap it's very easy to, well, swirl the drain, and start trying to pick up and interpret all the meta-messages out there to figure out what's going on - why does it feel like no one wants to talk to me? But that way lies madness (heh) and it only reinforces feeling really down on yourself - because there's no good way to get answers - even just asking will make the whole thing worse.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that I don't think you're weird for feeling the way you're feeling right now, at all! But I think you know it's probably weird to confront other people with how you're feeling. They will feel defensive - because people don't want to think they are making someone else feel bad; they will maybe feel guilty. They will point out that different people use Facebook for different reasons. They will point out cold, if true, things that just because you know people it doesn't mean you're close enough to them for them to care about you. (Great way to kind of reinforce how you're already feeling, huh?). And they will resent you for making them feel awkward, so if you already feel at a distance from other people, this will make the distance very palpable.

And it might totally backfire to unfriend them - because that can be taken as a hostile thing; to you, it's trying to shuck reminders of how asymmetrical you're feeling, maybe saying "I don't want to care about people who don't seem to care about me!"; but frankly, it's almost certain they're not thinking about this as deeply as you are; because the most important person in THEIR lives is themselves; by unfriending them they may hear "I'm not interested in you" and then, well, they will not be interested in you either; you WANT them to be interested in you, so how does that accomplish anything but more bad feelings?

I acknowledge this all seems unfair and crappy, but we ALL do it; and dwelling on it isn't going to make anything better. You sound like you're reading all these meta-levels of meaning into the lack of interaction you're receiving, swirling the drain, feeling hurt at being ignored, when they may simply be preoccupied, or not using Facebook like you use it, or any of the answers you've already received here. Remember, YOU know your own meta-levels and intentions - you're posting about accomplishments in the family to interest members of your family! - but they don't know that! You're feeling bad that they're not responding to stuff that, well, they probably don't even know that you're doing it to get them to respond! See?

Now what you could do besides telling yourself that they probably don't even realize how you're feeling and they probably don't intend to make you feel this way - you just may not even be on their radar - is that you could interact with THEM. It's true that people often don't show interest in you until you show interest in them. By posting stuff on your Wall you're still requiring THEM to come to YOU. Posting interesting things isn't enough if you're not doing the footwork by going to them and "liking" what they post or commenting to them - not overdoing it, but showing them you are interested in them; it puts you on their radar, and they might begin to reciprocate. Or not. You say you're sick of having the "hi how are you fine how are you fine" kind of chats but I have to tell you, those are the low-level ongoing interactions that keep you on people's radars; you can't just skip it and get right to something deeper, it's not how most people expect to interact. It takes time. If you talk to them at a more superficial level for some time, then you can not-awkwardly ask them out for coffee after a while. If you want.

And go out and be busy. If you're out there you're available for connections. If you're making more connections it's easier to brush it off when it doesn't "click" with someone. If you're busy, you'll be spending less time thinking and overthinking this stuff, and making yourself unhappy. If you accept that you're going to have to do more of the footwork reaching out to people, you may just make yourself more attractive to other people to interact with. People like dynamic, busy, confident people; people reject needy, unhappy, awkward people. (Which is why most of us don't tell others what we're REALLY thinking, right?)

Sorry this got long in response. I don't know you, but I wanted to let you know that you're not alone. I hope some of my thoughts about this help you.
posted by flex at 2:45 PM on October 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

The updated Emily Post sez don't defriend.

I could give a care. There has been some shitty behavior on the part of a few on my 'friends' list, and I said 'buh-bye' and felt better for it.
posted by angrycat at 2:51 PM on October 11, 2011

Well, your FB posts are essentially broadcasts to your entire friends list. They aren't messages to any one specific person that say "I am interested in hearing from you and knowing how you are doing." If you are really interested in communicating with one specific person, message them! But if what you're doing is an impersonal broadcast to a couple hundred people, why should one individual think you want to hear from them personally?

I don't use FB like this - I rarely post, I only have an account because my friends use it for event invitations, but I don't want Facebook to have an entire record of my actions and thoughts and photos and messages and everything. They don't seem to care much about users' privacy, and I don't feel like bothering to separate friends into groups so that my coworkers can't see certain things and then worrying about who sees what. The easiest, least stressful, least time-consuming solution was for me to just not use Facebook much, and I'm happy with that. I've noticed a lot of others doing the same. It's not fun any more.
posted by citron at 3:13 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you ever read a post on metafilter, like the post, but don't favorite it or comment because you don't have anything to really contribute?

Facebook is like that. Facebook does so well because it can be as passive or active as you want. I can see what old friend X is up to, but don't have to go to the trouble of chatting with her or messaging her. I can just go oh her wedding loomed nice, cute kids, glad she's doing so well.

In some ways I actually feel awkward commenting on the posts of people who I rarely speak with. Because it's like hey we don't talk but yeah rawr republicans. I mean sometimes I do, but like in real life, I interact mostly with a close group of friends and only occasionally interact with the other 400 people I know. Doesn't mean I don't like them or enjoy seeing what they are up to now and then.
posted by whoaali at 3:22 PM on October 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I see facebook as a the equivalent of a bulletin board in a community building; people put up all sorts of stuff, and it's interesting to look at and occasionally respond. Very rarely I will put up something neat also.

It would come across as really odd to me if one of my contacts suddenly starts asking me why I'm not talking to them. Also, it might take weeks for me to notice the message in the first place.
posted by HFSH at 3:35 PM on October 11, 2011

I've got more than 1,500 Facebook friends I've kinda collected. I don't interact with most of them, and I drop any if they get too weird. I'm on Facebook 24/7, and I barely know most of my FB friends. If I want to get in touch with someone, I'll just start commenting or Liking more.

Keep in mind that FB has pretty arcane settings for what appears on the front page, so they might have their settings set up as Top News instead of Most Recent News.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:51 PM on October 11, 2011

And I just realized that I do subscribe to the 'address book' model. The people I interact with most on FB are a. people who are my close friends IRL and b. people who always like to talk politics/nerd shit/etc.

that said, I have real life friends who really aren't interested in commenting on every one of my stupid Cracked Likes or weird rants. and that's cool too!
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:30 PM on October 11, 2011

And maybe they are thinking, why haven't they heard from you lately. I feel like we saw another Ask like this a couple months ago -- how can I get more people to comment on my FB updates, or something -- and you might want to check that out.

But this idea that you have is misguided. If you want to interact with someone, interact with that person. That has nothing to do with whether that person has commented on your stupid updates. Defriend whomever you want, but that message is weird, as is the thought process behind it. People comment for lots of reasons. If you want interaction, step up and interact.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:46 PM on October 11, 2011

Facebook is for stalking people.

I mean, it's for keeping in touch with what they're doing, and besides, discussions on FB can get angry quickly because you have a bunch of friends with different political/religoius/whatever views. It isn't very fun to discuss on FB.

It's also for lolling at witty statements.
posted by titanium_geek at 6:53 PM on October 11, 2011

They aren't messages to any one specific person that say "I am interested in hearing from you and knowing how you are doing." If you are really interested in communicating with one specific person, message them! But if what you're doing is an impersonal broadcast to a couple hundred people, why should one individual think you want to hear from them personally?

I don't know, I kind of agree with the OP. Although I guess I'm the only one - that may give you an idea of where your problem is coming from - you imagined a purpose for FB that no one else apparently did.

I wouldn't friend someone in the first place if I wasn't interested in hearing from you and knowing how you're doing. That's kind of implied. That's the point right? I only have about 45 friends because I only add people who I want to hear from. If I didn't want to hear from them, why would I add them? I already have their email address or could get it if I needed it.

I don't really know what the answer is other than to get in line and manage your expectations.
posted by bleep at 7:14 PM on October 11, 2011

if all else fails, Facebook has a Polls button. it's fun for making major life decisions, and putting up questions like 'Do you hate me? Yes/No'
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:45 PM on October 11, 2011

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