Facebook Encounters

I’ve recently spent some time on Facebook, primarily out of professional interest (all the cool attorneys are doing it). (I’m also on LinkedIn, but that seems less cool.) Among other odd results, I’ve been getting lots of friend requests from people I’ve had no contact with in ten — and sometimes twenty or more — years. I’m surprised by this because I’ve always been so easy to find. I started my first “home page” in 1994, and as long as the idea of search engine rankings has existed, I’ve been at the top in searches for my name. I’ve also never made any attempt to hide my email address, and retained all addresses for nearly 15 years.

Yet, people contact me on Facebook who never before did.

I have two nonexclusive theories:

  • Facebook just induces more searching for old friends than “the web at large.”
  • Facebook allows you to reconnect with people for a minimum activation energy. You don’t have to write them an email, tell them about your life, or engage in conversation. You just click “add to friends” and you’re done. Maybe these people had found me in the past but just didn’t bother to let me know. In fact, in the case of some of these people with whom I haven’t communicated since middle school, I still haven’t communicated with them. We’re just Facebook friends.

Other ideas?

I should add that I have made some genuine connections through Facebook as well. Earlier this week, I met a college friend (whose website promises to return to service soon) for dinner whom I hadn’t seen in nearly ten years. I found out he was in town through Facebook.


  1. Ann Onymous Oct 5

    I’ve seen lots of people who take pride in their number of “friends” on facebook. Nothing like some old school “pals” to rack up the stats…

  2. Axl Oct 5

    As mentioned before, Facebook for many people is about a “friend grab” to try and show you are more popular than other people. This is usually done by sad people who don’t get out and have real friends.

    I’ve personally had a few people who I’d lost touch with and was over the moon when they added me as a friend on Facebook. I immediately sent them a message asking how they are doing and updating them with my situation. And you know what? No reply. They aren’t interested. The second I add +1 on their friend account, they’ve got all they want.

  3. slick anon Oct 5

    an important aspect of facebook-friends not mentioned so far is the browsing. people browse their friend lists for people the know from earlier or notice a name they recognice in the notifications. they don’t necessarily search for you.

    on another note, in the early phase of a facebook-account “the friend count” might mean something, but “the friend count” stats are getting boring quite fast. after a while people only add friends/acquaintances they want to keep in touch with.

  4. Daniel Burrows Oct 9

    I wonder if this might be due to the fact that finding people on Facebook actually works. You and I might be easily findable via Google, but many people don’t have a Web presence at all, or if they do they can’t be distinguished from the hundreds of other people with the same name. Your friends probably have learned that searching Google for people is useless, and the only way to find out that it’s not useless in your case is to search for you.

  5. Dave G Oct 14

    So far, I’ve reconnected with 2 people, but it’s mostly a scrabble-playing outlet for me.

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