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The virtual snub

January 27, 2008|Monica Corcoran | Times Staff Writer

Q:I joined Facebook three months ago. I'm an indie film publicist, and it seemed like a good way to network with people in my business. Plus, I figured that I could hook up with some old friends. Wrong. Every day, I get a request from someone who wants to be my friend. So far, I haven't denied anyone, and I am already up to 231 friends. I don't even know some of these people. Is it rude to blow people off? And what about co-workers? Half of my company is on my Facebook page, and it's bad enough having to banter at the water cooler.

-- L.G., Silver lake

Dear L.G.,

In order to empathize over your embarrassment of riches, I joined the 55 million members of Facebook last week. As of today, I have exactly three friends. Clearly, I am in no position to deny anyone -- even a recent ex-con or a contrite sex offender -- as a potential e-pal. A barren Facebook page is a lot like a brand new passport. Both seem to scream, "I haven't left my basement since they invented fat-free Pringles."

People who do share your dilemma, however, have no remorse about rejecting unwanted friends. "Ignoring a request is like not calling someone back," says Shawn Sachs, chief executive of publicity firm Sunshine, Sachs & Associates. "I don't like to do it. But usually, people get the hint." FYI: Sachs, who's well-connected on both coasts, has 542 more friends than I. He can afford to turn amigos away.

Looking for a more humane way to snub a chum?

Rather than just "ignore" the request via Facebook's automated system, you could send a quick personal message that reads: "My psychoanalysist says I can't forge new relationships" or "I'm traveling abroad on business." Of course, the only caveat is that your cyber-stalker could check back and tally your number of contacts to see if you're actually limiting your social circle.

When colleagues come knocking, it's a whole different story. Sachs says that he would never deny someone he has to walk by every day at the office. But Russell Binder, president of Striker Entertainment, thinks colleagues shouldn't be using Facebook to socialize during business hours. "There's got to be a level of professionalism," he says. "As an employer, I feel like if you're not on the phone and making deals, why are you here?"

True. Besides, your CFO needs more beans to count if he's constantly seeking new buddies. Still, it's risky to snub a business colleague in incestuous Hollywood because the friend you turn away today could be your boss tomorrow.

You're better off accepting coworkers and allowing them access to a limited profile. Make that the one that lists basic personal information and doesn't show your friends. Certain agents and producers cruise profiles to poach contacts.

If you do ignore someone and he or she refuses to relent, you can always choose to "block" that person. According to Facebook, that person "will not be able to search for you, see your profile or contact you."

Or you could always send that person my way and I'll have a whopping four friends.


Do you have a social woe or an etiquette issue? Send questions to the Mannerist at monica.corcoran

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