You Give Friendship a Bad Name

I just got the following alert from Facebook:

“Your friend request privileges have been temporarily blocked. From now on, please don’t send friend requests to people you don’t know personally. Facebook is a place for connecting with friends, family, classmates, coworkers and other people you know well. If you are blocked from sending friend requests, you may also be blocked from sending messages to people who are not your confirmed friends.”

Nevermind the fact that I had 52 pending requests from people I’ve never met in real life who wanted to friend me, which I was happy to accept, because isn’t making new friends kind of the point?

Feeling curious (and a little miffed) about this heretofore unmentioned rule, I clicked on Facebook’s Community Standards link. And while I didn’t see anything on there about only friending people you’ve physically met in real life, there was quite a bit about what you can and cannot say about other people on Facebook. For example:

“Facebook does not tolerate bullying or harassment. We allow users to speak freely on matters and people of public interest, but take action on all reports of abusive behavior directed at private individuals. Repeatedly targeting other users with unwanted friend requests or messages is a form of harassment.” And, “Facebook does not permit hate speech. While we encourage you to challenge ideas, institutions, events, and practices, it is a serious violation to attack a person based on their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or medical condition.”

Reading these guidelines made me think of a few news stories I’ve read recently. (i.e. the Erin Gallagher story, the Amanda Todd story, and the Phoebe Prince story.) The journalist in me started to wonder whether Facebook was cracking down as hard on harassment and libel violations as they were on these so-called “friendship” violations. So I did a quick search.

And here’s what I found:

When you search the term “is a slut” on Facebook, you’ll probably be shocked at the number of links that come up. A handful of these “So-n-so is a slut” pages are satirical in nature, aimed at no one person in particular. A few dozen are aimed at celebrities (i.e. the “Miley Cyrus is a slut” and “Selena Gomez is a slut” style pages, of which there seem to be many, regardless of the fact that their subjects could have genuine grounds for slander suits). But some of the pages are dedicated to normal, everyday people. Teenagers, adults, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that each of those people are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s friend.

And the slam-speech on Facebook doesn’t stop there. Try searching “is a Nazi” next, why don’t you? Let’s see how many people a day are getting away with using a phrase that has been known to destroy entire political campaigns if uttered by one candidate in reference to another. Oh, would you look at that, there are TONS of those.

And let’s see what other non-PC, slanderous things we can come up with while we’re on Facebook. There are even more pages with some variation on the idea “So-n-so is a retard.” Is Facebook policing those pages with as much gusto as it regulates each user? I kind of doubt it.

The point I’m making here might not be as objective as I’d like. But I feel it’s a point that should be addressed. Hopefully by someone with a little bit more wisdom and self-control than I have.