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Facebook's New Levels of Friendship

Somebody at Facebook may be reading my column.

Last summer, I wrote that this site and other social-networking sites erred by trying to confine all of our varying levels of closeness to a binary scale of "friend" or "not friend." Now, Facebook is letting its users decide how much of their lives they want to share with particular groups of friends.

As a blog post on the company's site explains, these new options build on the "friends list" feature rolled out last December:

For example, you can upload your "Family vacation" photo album and share it only with your mom and dad or only your "Family" friend list. Alternatively, you can restrict them from seeing a photo album that may not be so Family-friendly by allowing your friends "Except" these people or this list to see it.

In other words, you first have to go through your Facebook friends and assign them to one list or another, based on how close they are to you: "People I'd take a bullet for," "People I'd cook dinner for," "People I'll meet for lunch on my employer's tab" and so on. Since I had only dabbled with friends lists after their introduction, I need to finish filing away my Facebook contacts before this feature can pay off for me.

Facebook also allows users to share some of their information with friends of friends. And its privacy pages feature a new look, including a lock icon that should appear anytime you're asked to set a privacy option on the site.

The new features drew a quick thumbs-down from the Techdirt blog, which complained about the "bewildering array of options" thrown at users. On the other hand, this was a problem with Facebook's privacy settings before these changes -- at least now, some of the complexity can be fairly blamed on the fundamental messiness of social life itself.

Have you started using these new options? Do they not matter because you've always limited your Facebook input to things you'd be comfortable seeing on a newspaper's front page? Or maybe you don't worry about who sees your info? Is publicity the whole point of the social-networking exercise?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  March 21, 2008; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Digital culture  
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Comments

Hi Rob,
Ironically, because you're a friend of mine on Facebook, I indeed just read this blog entry after seeing your notification that you were blogging about Facebook once again!

In theory, I think the new levels of friendship are good, as I have a diverse level of Facebook friends that run the gamut from BFF to clients, colleagues, friends of friends, and even reporters! I'm not going to want everyone to hear/see about my birthday festivities last week, however, I don't really have the time to go thru my 300 friends to re-categorize them! Ugh!

Posted by: Lisa Amore | March 21, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Hi Rob, I'm your facebook friend, too, but I didn't see any updates that you were blogging about Facebook again. I guess I didn't make the cut and you're hiding stuff from me...

Just kidding, but I think this is one of the inherent risks in defining categories of friends: inevitably some "friends" will find out they are not included in a group they feel they should be included in. Might be better just to post stuff you're OK with all your friends seeing, and send emails to people about stuff that's more sensitive.

Not to mention that categorization is work, and not static. How often will people review their friends' categories to downgrade/upgrade people as needed?

Posted by: josef | March 21, 2008 1:23 PM | Report abuse

YOU CAN GET MY NEW BOOK TITLED "SO THEY WENT AND ELECTED A JEWISH PRESIDENT" THROUGH AMAZON.COM
THE BOOK FEATURES SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ON THE NEW PRESIDENT'S LIFE BY ASSASSINS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

Posted by: TOM CLANCY | March 21, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

YOU CAN GET MY NEW BOOK TITLED "SO THEY WENT AND ELECTED A JEWISH PRESIDENT" THROUGH AMAZON.COM
THE BOOK FEATURES SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ON THE NEW PRESIDENT'S LIFE BY ASSASSINS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

Posted by: TOM CLANCY | March 21, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

YOU CAN GET MY NEW BOOK TITLED "SO THEY WENT AND ELECTED A JEWISH PRESIDENT" THROUGH AMAZON.COM
THE BOOK FEATURES SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ON THE NEW PRESIDENT'S LIFE BY ASSASSINS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

Posted by: TOM CLANCY | March 21, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

YOU CAN GET MY NEW BOOK TITLED "SO THEY WENT AND ELECTED A JEWISH PRESIDENT" THROUGH AMAZON.COM
THE BOOK FEATURES SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ON THE NEW PRESIDENT'S LIFE BY ASSASSINS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

Posted by: TOM CLANCY | March 21, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

YOU CAN GET MY NEW BOOK TITLED "SO THEY WENT AND ELECTED A JEWISH PRESIDENT" THROUGH AMAZON.COM
THE BOOK FEATURES SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ON THE NEW PRESIDENT'S LIFE BY ASSASSINS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

Posted by: TOM CLANCY | March 21, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

YOU CAN GET MY NEW BOOK TITLED "SO THEY WENT AND ELECTED A JEWISH PRESIDENT" THROUGH AMAZON.COM
THE BOOK FEATURES SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ON THE NEW PRESIDENT'S LIFE BY ASSASSINS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

Posted by: TOM CLANCY | March 21, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

YOU CAN GET MY NEW BOOK TITLED "SO THEY WENT AND ELECTED A JEWISH PRESIDENT" THROUGH AMAZON.COM
THE BOOK FEATURES SEVERAL ATTEMPTS ON THE NEW PRESIDENT'S LIFE BY ASSASSINS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST.

Posted by: TOM CLANCY | March 21, 2008 1:51 PM | Report abuse

Hey TOM, don't make me send Lou over there. You know I just busted him down to captain.

Posted by: Clancy Wiggum | March 21, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Great topic, very interesting. The spammer though - what an idiot ! Posted once, I may have been interested, but by posting his trash seven times, I now have no interest whatsoever. Advertising that convinces you not to spend the money. Smart!

Thank you for the facebook news though - most interesting.

Posted by: John | March 21, 2008 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: wiredog | March 21, 2008 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Sign up for facebook? Instant no privacy forever. No Thanks.

Posted by: thebobbob | March 21, 2008 4:31 PM | Report abuse

I haven't mastered the art of selecting which friends should appear more often on my news feed. I've done the "show more of" and "show less of" preferences, along with various sliders, but I'm still getting "Dude You Barely Know has shared photos of his trip to Chantilly" and "Guy From Work has become a fan of Aerosmith" rather than "Actual Close Friend has changed relationship status to engaged."

Posted by: BD | March 22, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Is there any way that people will know whether they've been designated as members of the innermost circle of friends or relegated to lower status? That might cause some resentment!

Posted by: PPR | March 25, 2008 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I like the new privacy features on Facebook. I already had some friends lists set up so it was easy to assign privacy based on the lists. I like that when you invite a new friend, you can assign them to a list before they even accept your invitation.

Posted by: spongelaura | March 26, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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