Yet Another Facebook Story: Intimacy Problems

Tangerine Toad believes that sites like Facebook promote an “unnatural degree of intimacy.” I’m inclined to agree with him.

So there’s an art director I work with who asked to “friend” me on Facebook.
Now this art director seems like a nice enough guy, his office is not far from mine and I say hello to him in the hallway. But honestly, friends, all I know about him is his name and the state he hails from (long, not-very-interesting story). I don’t know what accounts he works on, who his friends are, where he’s worked previously: none of that.
But now, due to Facebook, which he is quite active about updating regularly, I know all sorts of things about him.

Personally, I resisted joining MySpace and Facebook as long as I could. I finally caved because my job requires that I stay up on things. In other words, it’s pretty lame to plan a soc net strategy for a client, when you are not active in the community. So, I’m a member of both now. As such, I’ve wasted untold hours tending to my profiles. And I continue to be distracted by email alerts telling me I have an email, not in my inbox where it should be, but on Facebook.
So clearly, I have my own problems with Facebook. But what about Toad’s intimacy issue? On the surface, it seems simple enough—delete one’s profile so it’s a non-issue. Or keep the profile going for whatever reason, and then as requests come in, say. “I’m glad you want to be my friend, let’s go to lunch.” Or in the case of a long-distance friendship, say, “Let’s talk on the phone.”
Of course, it’s not really that simple. For these friend requests don’t equate to actual friendships. Rather such a request means, “Let’s be virtual friends.” There’s something maddening about that.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I see Facebook and MySpace as fairly accurate mirrors of every day socialization – we all have work acquaintances that we love chatting with during midday procrastination breaks, but might not invite to our small intimate holiday cocktail party. There are our nightlife friends that don’t really know what it is what we do for work, only that we have great taste in music. And then there are the members of our innermost circle, the ones who could chart our emotional well-being over time but with whom we have never set foot in a movie theatre. On Facebook, we can choose who we are “friends” with, we can choose whether or not to read their blogs and comment walls, or peruse their friends’ profiles. We can post comments on our friends’ walls if we wish to get/send some (public) attention; send personal emails to start private conversations; or simply “poke” people if we genuinely like them but have nothing to say (my favorite is the “wave,” which is just like saying hi to your neighbor as you pass in the lobby). The only difference in virtual society is that you have to consciously choose each of your interactions – there is little circumstance to create natural settings. I think it is a matter of finding the level of participation that suits us best and getting comfortable enough to let go of obligations and compulsions.

  2. I don’t buy that people I work with are friends Maggi. Maybe when I was a junior, but not now.
    Yes, I’ve become friends with people I worked with, but that’s the exception rather than the rule and when you get to a certain level, you tend to keep that on the QT, lest you be accused of favoritism or whatnot.
    And Facebook broadcasts all sorts of updates and other nonsense (and now ads!) that you have to wade through to get to the stuff and people that matter.
    As I wrote on DailyFix:
    There’s a huge problem with using Facebook at work: Facebook is set up to allow teenagers to expose their social lives to each other.
    I don’t need to know what movies people I do business with like, which movie star they’re most like or what song they lost their virginity to. I don’t need them to bite me as a Vampire or match their musical tastes to mine.
    They’re people I work with. Not my friends.
    LinkedIn is how I connect with people I work with. Precisely because it doesn’t force me to interact with them and limits the amount of personal information that’s exchanged.
    @David: I hear you. Got onto Facebook for the same reason. And oddly feel compelled to keep updating both my identities: the real me and Tangerine Toad.