Friends that aren't real?

c: | f: /

When is a friend not a friend? In Facebook’s eyes, it’s when you dared to acquaint yourself outside of the online social sphere.

Fairly recently — I don’t know when the change occurred — Facebook made a curious alteration to the confirm-a-friend process. Previously, if somebody requested to be my friend I had to simply accept or deny the request. Now, if I accept, I’m asked a secondary question:

Do you know [name of person] outside Facebook?

I had to double-take the first time I was asked. And then blink. As opposed to, what, accepting the friendship of a random stranger who has nothing in common with me, and then sharing my photos and intimate life details with them?

What is even more bizarre is that the answer doesn’t appear to be mandatory. I can quite happily click somewhere else and ignore the question, and still become ‘friends’ with the person, regardless of whether I tell Facebook if they are friend, foe, animal, vegetable or mineral.

Of course there are some people in my friends list — not many — that I “know” and have never met in person, primarily due to the intercontinental distances involved. But I have still befriended them through other channels first, because getting to know someone before deciding if they are friendly is the decent, dare I say old-fashioned, thing to do.

I just can’t figure out what the point of the second question is. Not even from a marketing standpoint. Maybe I’ve got it all backwards and I should be accepting the requests of anybody who spams me or lays claim to the, largely fabricated, digital version of myself. Yay 4,642 friends, here I come…

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