Cory Doctorow has written an excellent piece about how Facebook suffers from exactly the same dilemma suffered by earlier online social networks: when everyone’s on, it’s not cool anymore. And worse — you’ll need to “defriend” people. Oh how to do this without offending people? You can’t. Here’s an excerpt from Cory’s article:
You’d think that Facebook would be the perfect tool for handling all this. It’s not. For every long-lost chum who reaches out to me on Facebook, there’s a guy who beat me up on a weekly basis through the whole seventh grade but now wants to be my buddy; or the crazy person who was fun in college but is now kind of sad; or the creepy ex-co-worker who I’d cross the street to avoid but who now wants to know, “Am I your friend?” yes or no, this instant, please. It’s not just Facebook and it’s not just me. Every “social networking service” has had this problem and every user I’ve spoken to has been frustrated by it. I think that’s why these services are so volatile: why we’re so willing to flee from Friendster and into MySpace’s loving arms; from MySpace to Facebook. It’s socially awkward to refuse to add someone to your friends list — but removing someone from your friend-list is practically a declaration of war.
I left LinkedIn, a popular business networking site precisely because lots of people wanted to be my contact and began pestering me for endorsements even though I hardly knew them. It was a complete waste of time. If I need to contact someone, I don’t need to go through LinkedIn. I have a very good network already and my friends are more than willing to make introductions to other people.