Tobold's Blog
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
How I lost 143 friends

To misquote Oscar Wilde: "To lose one friend may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose 143 looks like carelessness." I spent part of my weekend unfriending 143 people on Facebook. Took a while, because you need to defriend each of them individually. That leaves me with only 2 friends left there, which happen to be the only ones I actually know in real life. Everybody else was friended via a forum of some Facebook game. Over the years these games have become increasingly unplayable if you don't have dozens of friends or more to send you items. That isn't lazyness, the items you get from your friends are needed for the game and can't be acquired by other in-game means. You either get the stuff from your friends, or you buy it for real money. And you need those friend-items for pretty much every quest after the tutorial.

The logical consequence is that all the forums of Facebook games have "add me" threads, where people are looking for fake friends to exchange items with. Somehow the adding of fake friends becomes just part of the gameplay. If adding friends is what you have to do to advance in the game, you do it. And with half of Facebook logins being just to play games, and hundreds of millions of players per month, that ends up with lots of fake friendships.

Of course there are no statistics of how many of the Facebook friendships out there are fake, but it sure is a significant percentage. Add to that the friend connections of the 83 million fake Facebook accounts, and you get a hundreds of millions of "friendships" between people who never met. So who cares? Well, did you ever wonder why a free internet service is worth over 60 billion dollars on the stockmarket? Advertisers pay good money to use the social connections on Facebook. The theory is that word of mouth from your friends is good advertising. But of course that only works if those friends are real. This is why Facebook is now asking you when you receive a friend invite whether you know that person in real life. Not that this helps much, as people are just lying. But Facebook sure has understood that there is a threat to their business model.

I didn't have a problem with lying to Facebook or making lots of fake game friends because I am not really using that Facebook account for anything else. But with Facebook increasingly going after fake accounts and fake friendships, and some Zynga games really exaggerating with the number of friends needed to get anything done, Facebook got increasingly unattractive as a game platform. And then of course tablets like the iPad or Android-based equivalents, or smart-phones, are on the rise as platforms for casual games. Why bother with fake Facebook friends in Farmville if you can play a similar but better Hay Day on the iPad, which doesn't require friends at all? So I quit all Facebook games and defriended all of my fake game friends. I'm sure they won't even notice. But unless they come up with something else, I predict an unhappy future to Facebook game companies.

Comments:
2 Facebook friends is still 2 friends too many :)

I've read quite a few blogs on Sunday and several of them dealt with removing 80% of "friends". Most cited privacy concerns and some didn't care for all the updates.

I use facebook to keep in touch with alumni and that's pretty much it.

The last game I played was Allies and Empires, which I quit at the point where it required me to friend people (or pay) in order to keep progressing... which is around level 30. I still have my base though, it looks like a mini SimCity (or rather SimBase). I still visit it from time to time but that's the last of Zynga games.

I did play Carcassonne on FB, it plays nicely.
 
I use Facebook to keep in touch with our family oversea. They liv in South America, I live in Europe (with my wife and my children). In that sense... Facebook really keeps family closer.

For anything else. FB -to my eyes- is a horrible waste of time.
 
I've used Facebook exclusively to keep up with RL friends in other states, alumni and family (and then only with the most minimal effort). Never tried any FB games and I ignore those who send me those invites/prompts (or whatever they are).
 
I use Facebook to keep in touch with certain family from all over the world as well. As platform it allows instant and non-instant communication, and I dig that.

I have added a few real-life friends though. As in friends, not "people I know". The problem lies in the American use of the word "friend". It doesn't resemble friendship or a strong bond, it denotes peer (ie. "people you know"). Heck, in The Social Network mr. Zuckerberg had NO real friends.

The problem with Facebook is: the more people you add, the more of a complex privacy / security AND timesink nightmare it becomes. Keep it simple, stupid. Think twice before you add anyone. If you remove anyone you have a connection with (peer) they'll be insulted to the point where they see your relation as worthless whereas if you state when they mention Facebook that you do have it but only add family they'll shrug and move on.

My former WoW guild I was trial in used Facebook to communicate. They used Facebook for calendar invites, picking Facebook over in-game calendar (which has iCal support) or even GMOTD (which anyone reads when they log in). From what I heard they even put their disband message on Facebook. Needless to say I never even attempted to go to their Facebook page, and quit my trial very quickly once I learned of this social phenomenon.
 
This is one of the many reasons that I dislike Facebook as a social media platform. The term "feature creep" barely begins to describe what's happened to the place. I never got involved in the fake friends thing, though I have been severely tempted, and I know at least 2 people who do it regularly. Unfortunately some of those FB games are very well designed and addictive.
 
I have a fake account for all my fake friends. Problem solved. :)

I don't play many games on FB any longer, but I want to say I had around 2500 at one point.
 
You realize that this is something akin to piracy, right? You're denying them their source of income by deliberately breaching their terms and conditions, you are accessing intellectual property that you would otherwise be unable to for free.

Everyone's got a line somewhere, it's just interesting to see where they draw it.
 
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