Facebook anxiety
November 14, 2017 11:53 AM   Subscribe

About a year ago, Facebook forced me to make a facebook page just so I could read a couple of people I was interested in.

So, under duress, I made a Facebook page using my middle name--which nobody knows me by--and my common last name. And that's it. I've never made ONE entry on the page. Not one. There is nothing about me, no photos, no nothing. In fact, I have no presence on facebook at all--not even on other people's pages. Indeed, I have no social media presence at all. I don't want any.

Also, I've only friended ONE person, on an impulse--a scientist I admire but who I've never met.

Over the last few months, I've gotten flurries of notices. And an occassional friend request from some Finns? who I have assuredly never met.

But in the last 24 hours, the friend requests have picked up. I've gotten at least four. I googled the people, and they're all interesting--a semi-well known writer, a psychologist, an artist, son of scientist, also a fighter whose first entry was a news article about being involved in a somewhat notorious crime. I have not a clue.

It occurred to me that maybe the name I used was inadvertently a famous person, so I googled my name. Nope. I'm really good at anonymity, I guess, since the top two or three entries were, believe it or not, obituaries.

So, I don't GET it.

my question is: WHY?

Why do people friend other people, in general?

And why would people friend somebody who not only doesn't really exist, but who is just a cipher--a name without a face or an identity?

This is beginning to give me social anxiety. I'm far too old for this.
posted by Transl3y to Human Relations (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Why do people friend other people, in general?
If it is someone who does not know me, I assume it was because I came up in their Suggested Friends section. Usually that means we have one or more friends in common, but it could be because Facebook sees us posting from the same area or we both like the same random page. You don't have to friend famous people, you can usually follow them instead. Friending someone means both sides have agreed to be friends. Following is just so you see their updates and they don't have to approve you following them.

Facebook is likely tweaking their algorithms constantly and this means they look at changing criteria all the time. They may see that you were active at first and now just log on and read, with no interaction. They are trying to get you to interact more so they can show you more ads. No one is targeting you other than to try to show you ads. As we know, some of those ads have crappy content, but that is another issue.
posted by soelo at 11:59 AM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

facebook profiles with "real friends" are a valuable commodity. change your settings as per this page to friends of friends and then randos can't add you.
posted by noloveforned at 12:00 PM on November 14, 2017 [7 favorites]

I get friend requests all the time from people I don't know, on Facebook and other apps. As far as I can see, they break down like this:
  • People who want to sell me something.
  • Spammers.
  • People trying to drum up business for their page or blog.
  • People trying to win some kind of "most number of friends" contest.
  • Victims of mistaken identity.
  • Actual people I know who have found me through some other friend's page.
I would expect this last case to be small for you. In any case, it's totally safe to just keep denying them.
posted by ubiquity at 12:01 PM on November 14, 2017 [8 favorites]

You can block notifications in your settings. The weird friend suggestions are FBs attempt to get you to engage on their platform. If you don't have any friends yet, the algorithm gets all wonky trying to figure out what you want. You can ignore these.

People friend other people to see what they're up to, to stay in touch with friends or family, or to keep track of bands, brands, artists, or relevant activities / groups that are of interest to them. I enjoy keeping up with my friends there, as I have a widely dispersed network of people in other states and countries whom I don't see or call very often.

It may be worth it to you to keep an empty FB profile to read things like you wanted originally, or not.
posted by ananci at 12:03 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

FB has at least your email address. Did you ever give them your phone number, for example to enable two factor authentication?

With these two things they can link you to quite a lot of people. Say your friend Joe, who uses FB, has your email or phone number in his iPhone contacts. Maybe Joe is friends with the people who sent you requests. Maybe HIS friends are friends with these people. Maybe Joe went to a conference with these scientists, and didn't even talk to them, but they were in proximity for a period of time so FB figures they know each other or have common interests.

If you're male or have a male sounding name, most requests from women are likely to be just spam.
posted by AFABulous at 12:08 PM on November 14, 2017 [6 favorites]

Also bots. There are more than a few entities trolling Facebook to build their own social graph for all sorts of purposes, nefarious and otherwise. And PIs often create fake accounts and friend as many people as possible so as to gain access to information about people who don't have their privacy settings restricted to allow only direct friends to see your stuff.

It's not necessarily that they are interested in you specifically, they are usually hoping to get access to your friends and eventually work their way back to their target with a bunch of their friends already friended.
posted by wierdo at 12:31 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking about this two ways.


Also, I've only friended ONE person, on an impulse--a scientist I admire but who I've never met.

Given that (i) you refer to your own Facebook profile as a "page", (ii) that you are an older individual and (iii) that you have no social media presence, I'm wondering if you're confusing friending and liking.

Basically, a "page" is sort of a public outpost anyone can see. Restaurants have pages, celebrities have pages, television shows have pages, clubs have pages. What you do on Facebook is you "like" a page. That basically has them show up on your "news feed" -- think of "liking" as sort of the equivalent of a magazine subscription or the daily paper and your "news feed" as your front porch. If you "like" someone, their stuff will start showing up there.

And then there are people's profiles -- actual people who share photos, friends, etc. with their friends. You "friend" someone, and it's a two-way street.

I suspect this to be the case only because it would be odd (but certainly not impossible!) for this scientist who you had never met to accept your friend request. You're a stranger to him or her. But if you're talking about someone who has a Facebook page (i.e. Neil DeGrasse Tyson), then you could "like" their page. That'd be different than a "friend request".

Now if that's what happened, then you may not be getting friend requests -- you may just be getting suggestions from Facebook as to other Facebook pages you might like, based on the fact that you "liked" that scientist.

Why are you getting these suggestions? Basically, Facebook wants you to spend more time on it (so that it can charge companies more for ads), so it tries to encourage you in lots of ways to stay on there, and one of the ways is to suggest other people you might want to look at it. So those flurry of e-mails may be such suggestions.

Please forgive me if you knew all this and felt like I was "talking down" to you there! I have older family members and I try to reach back for analogies that might be familiar to them.

Let's say I'm wrong, though ... and this wasn't the case, and those are actually friend requests you're getting, not page suggestions.

Then, my second thought:

If this way of thinking about it helps you, to me, I consider Facebook the equivalent of the little handwritten personal address books that everyone used to have by the "landline" phone that was stuck on their wall.

In other words, "friending" someone is a way that I can get in touch with that person. It's the equivalent of creating a way of communicating between them and me. It's not an actual "friendship", despite the wording.

I've friended everybody and their mother that I know or have met, so that it is easy to get in touch with them. In essence, I am "filling up my phone book" by doing so.
posted by WCityMike at 12:45 PM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

WCity Are you saying that it's ... pushy or something to 'friend' somebody, like I did with the scientist? Although he did accept me as a friend, I don't want to embarrass myself by doing that again. But not only did he accept me as a friend, one of the friend requests I got yesterday was from his son. This is what is befuddling me--how my ghost-like persona 'attracts' friend requests.
posted by Transl3y at 1:29 PM on November 14, 2017

Facebook suggests friends to people who have similar interests or friends in common. Your scientist "friend"'s son likely saw that you are a friend of his father, and decided to make you a friend as well. As WCityMike describes, filling his address book.
posted by pammeke at 1:53 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you saying that it's ... pushy or something to 'friend' somebody, like I did with the scientist?

I wouldn't say it's pushy at all. There are so many people on Facebook that there's a huge spectrum of ways to behave. I would say, though, that the "usual" behavior is to friend those you personally know, either as friends, acquaintances, co-workers, or relations of same.
posted by WCityMike at 2:20 PM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just to be clear, Facebook downloads your phone's address book, text messages and call history when you install the app on your phone. That means Facebook knows about anyone you have called, texted or added to your contacts since you've owned your phone. It does the same with everyone else, so it also knows anyone who has called, texted or added you to their contacts. Facebook connects the two and then looks for commonality.

If you install the app on your phone, you've lost any hope of privacy or anonymity on the service, so don't do that! They have other ways of connecting people - location, comments, likes, friends and so on. But the one above is a primary method.
posted by cnc at 2:48 PM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Well, thanks everybody. You've answered a lot of questions. Facebook is fascinating. Or creepy. Or both I guess. The idea of getting into my address book though! It's a tentacled monster.
posted by Transl3y at 3:14 PM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've used fake accounts for various reasons and they always get a bunch of friend requests and it's usually somehow based on who I have followed. It doesn't mean anything. It's probably people/spambots who are trying to boost their own followers count by expecting you will follow them back if they follow you. "Friend request" is a weird way of putting it on Facebook's part -- it's really "following" someone's feed. Don't worry about it.

If you aren't comfortable with the idea of being on Facebook, I'd use a fake name and a throwaway email address that isn't connected to you. Review all the privacy settings too.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:04 PM on November 14, 2017

I've been on Facebook for years, and in the last few days have had a major uptick in rando accounts attempting to friend me. I don't know if Facebook's algorithm changed so I'm new to all these randos at once, or if it's just one of those things where spam occurs in waves with different strategies and it's facebook-friending strategy week for spammers and scammers.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:00 AM on November 15, 2017

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