by Owen Wengerd
Much has been written about how social networking is shaping the future. I'm totally on board, but I'm not quite ready to sell my soul. I still think before I post, and I scrutinize every privacy setting to make sure I have maximum control over who can see what I post. I also take care about who I "friend". To me, a friend is someone that I know personally - not necessarily "in person", but at least someone I have interacted with one-on-one either professionally or personally. The thing is, modern social networking vernacular, or "text patois" as I like to call it, is changing our language.
What does it mean to be someone's "friend" on Facebook? LinkedIn uses the term "connection", which is more to my liking. On Twitter, we are "followers" like sheep to slaughter, and on Google+ we get added to "circles" like rats. At the least, we all have "contacts" (who could legitimately be our worst enemies, I guess). Is language evolving to fit our needs, or is the tail wagging the dog here? Sometimes I feel a bit trapped, such as when I'm faced with a "friend request" from someone that does not fit my definition of a friend, but who is nevertheless someone I know. I am guilty of sometimes bending my own rules a little to satisfy my innate idea of fairness - or my fear of rejecting someone who I don't want to offend.
I recently posed a friend-request scenario to some friends and asked for their advice. One (very real) friend responded that she tends to accept friend requests from people she knows "as long as they were not bat-s**t crazy, or someone with whom I'd had a messy falling out." I wonder if this is typical, or whether the rules may vary by age and gender. I have received a number of LinkedIn connection requests that are currently in limbo: I don't know the people personally at all, but they obviously know me and they generally work for companies that I have a relationship with, or we belong to the same associations. If I knew these people, I would accept their request without a second thought. Yet, there they are, not accepted and not declined, on the off chance that I eventually relax my criteria for being a friend.
[Owen Wengerd writes about AutoCAD programming at his blog, Outside the Box. More about Mr Wengerd at http://otb.manusoft.com/about ]