Beware the Facebook 'friend collector'

Do you often add long-lost friends or half-remembered college classmates on Facebook? You may be a Friend Collector.

Story highlights

  • Have a Facebook friend who doesn't respond to your posts? They're likely a "friend collector"
  • Many friend collectors send requests out of curiosity and nosiness
  • Should writers promote their work on Twitter? Yes, but they must do so in a tactical way
Perhaps it's the inherently soul-crushing nature of the holiday season, but it seems many of our readers have been beset by quandaries of late. So, being the utterly benevolent souls that we are, we're choosing to devote this week's column to more reader questions.
This week we tackle Facebook friend collectors and the eternal query: To tweet or not to tweet?
Merry, Happy Whatever, everyone.
Most times when I get a friend request or if someone accepts mine, I initiate a "thanks for the friend (request/accept)" in a private message, plus a quick update -- one or two lines max. Most of the time I receive something similar in return. With some friends this leads to more conversation, sometimes not, but either way at least we communicated.
Every once in a while, I''ll initiate a message and the new "friend" doesn't bother to respond. I guess I'm not sure what to make of it. I see their activity on FB so I know they have signed in but they never responded back. If we're supposed to be "friends" a quick "hello" and maybe an update would seem good manners. I have had different friends suggest different meanings:
1. If they have not responded after several weeks and you see them active, just "unfriend" them because they were just "collecting" you anyway.
2 Don't private message them, post on their wall. Many people don't like the PM stuff -- too creepy. (I've posted on their wall as well with about the same rate of return communication).
3. Who cares? You don't want to talk to those people anyway (I guess that returns me to option 1 but that approach seems rather harsh).
What do you think is the correct approach?
- Fed-Up With Fake Friends
Assuming that you are not, in fact, clicking obsessively through your new friend's Timeline, fastidiously poring over years 2005-2011 and shooting off private messages that amorously detail the imagined flick of her tongue as she enjoyed a melting cone of pistachio sherbet on June 3, 2006, it sounds like you've been suffering some serious abuse at the hands of "The Friend Collector." (That's a term both similar and many ways vastly different from the 1999 flick starring Denzel Washington, which your new friend added to her favorite films in early 2007).
The friend collector is a wily, often drunk beast that lurks within all of us, threatening to rise up and assume our form during a particularly vigorous bout of Facebooking/memory lane-walking/power-houring.
The phenomenon was admittedly less common back in the days when we actually had to type a remembered acquaintance's name into the search bar, squinting through the dust of childhood and a veil of tequila to remember his/her surname.
But a while back Facebook added that pesky "People You May Know" feature, impelling us to add childhood friends, half-remembered college classmates and random guys in indie bands (or what I like to call "future ex-boyfriends") with wild abandon.
Many times, we add such people not because we particularly want to talk to them, but merely because we're afflicted with the oh-so itch-able question, "I wonder what so-and-so is doing now," and we just have to scratch.
And you know what happens when you scratch too hard: You draw blood. And in this case, that blood is yours, in that you're getting hurt when your fake pal shuns your friendly -- non-creepy, non-murderous, right? -- advances.
So let's all take a vow, as we wander myopically into the New Year: Thou shalt not friend collect. Even if our good friend Martin Martini makes a strong case for it at 3 a.m.
Oh, and to answer your question: Go ahead and unfriend the phony. She'll probably just attempt to friend you again, wholly unaware that she has already done so. Like a true criminal, a Friend Collector always returns to the scene of the crime.
I am a writer and I love sarcasm. My work is posted on (Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania) but I would like to get it noticed -- I don't think anyone reads it. How could I get my work noticed? A writer friend told me to Twitter whenever I'm published. Who the heck is going to go on my Twitter account? I'm a 58-year-old mom in the suburbs -- please. Plus I don't have a Twitter account.
- To Tweet or Not to Tweet?
OK, so just because you're a 58-year-old mom in the suburbs, that means no one cares what the hell you have to say? I would use a word synonymous with (and less idiotic than) "baloney" here if this weren't CNN, but, yeah, there you have it.
Ever heard of Sam Halpern? Well, he's a 70-something-year-old man who has nearly 3 million people in his thrall daily via the Twitter account @sh*tmydadsays. Granted, the Twitter account is not run by Sam himself but by his son Justin, but regardless, Sam's pearls of weirdness and wisdom have spawned a book and a TV series.
But here's where you differ from Sam: You're the writer here. You're the one creating content that you think others should see (unless you have some kind of weird obsession with corgis in Cosby sweaters, in which case your kids are about to cash it in big time) and you need to be the one to get it out there.
So listen to your writer friend: Start a Twitter account, but do so in a tactical way. Don't just sign up and start tweeting links to your articles into the ether. Search for other writers whom you admire -- and work with on -- and follow them posthaste.
Read what they have to say, engage in conversations and post links to articles and stories that both you and your followers can appreciate. Then, once you've built up a relationship with this online network of people -- who will see you as much more than a suburban mom (not that there's anything wrong with that) -- add your own work into the mix.
Since people will already trust you and your judgment, they will be much more willing to retweet your stories and thereby score you a much wider audience than you would have had out there, rockin' the suburbs.
And, who knows, if your work is good, maybe you, too, can score a book/TV deal. If not, well, then go ahead and use my corgis in Cosby sweaters idea. That one is solid gold.