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February 13, 2009

Are you a Facebook friend padder?

Posted: 10:57 AM ET

Anyone who's spent much time on Facebook knows somebody who pads their roster of online "friends" with dozens, if not hundreds, of people they don't really know. It's human nature, I guess - we all want to appear more popular than we really are.

Collecting "friends" on Facebook can have its limits.

But did you know there's apparently a limit to how rapidly you can add friends on Facebook?

Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn recently began contacting random strangers on the popular social-networking site as part of an experiment to see how quickly he could acquire 1,000 new Facebook friends.

After Zorn had sent 180 friend requests in less than an hour, an automated note from Facebook popped up on his screen warning him to stop or he'd be kicked off the site. So he did. Then he wrote a column about it.

I'm all for exposing egregious "friend padders" as the transparently insecure showoffs they probably are. And Facebook is supposed to be an online gathering place, not a popularity contest. (For the record, I currently have 196 Facebook friends, most of them casual acquaintances and a dozen or so people I barely know.)

Facebook says it sets "friend-gathering" rate limits to protect users from spam. But cracking down on how fast someone can add friends seems misguided and hypocritical. After all, doesn't the site encourage friend-gathering by suggesting other Facebook users that you or your friends might know?

And what if someone with loads of actual, genuine friends joins Facebook and immediately starts contacting them - shouldn't they be allowed to go from zero to 200 friends in a matter of hours if they want to?

What do you think?

- Brandon Griggs, CNN.com

Filed under: Internet


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Glenn   February 14th, 2009 11:56 am ET

I think a limit is a good thing, I'd hate to be bombarded with friends request like I was in the early days of MySpace. I find that generally FaceBook is a more mature social networking site than MySpace so to have 600 to 1000 friends seems hard to swallow. I have found old friends I have not talked to in years and have added about 60 or so distant relatives that I would never have known. Still my total is 81 and I don't use the site for business networking so my address book is not loaded in here.


Chachie   February 14th, 2009 1:07 pm ET

I just recently trimmed down my facebook friend list from 500+ to 300+. And I can say that I do not really know all of those 300 people–some of them I've met on FB (suggested by friends or by FB itself). I realized that I don't need to know factoids and updates from people I don't really know and don't give a sh*t about.


Dennis   February 14th, 2009 6:42 pm ET

I think Brandon's comment that it's "misguided and hypocritical" to limit the number of friends someone can add in a short period is way off base and betrays a lack of knowledge of how websites, and the internet itself operate. On any given day, thousands of "web-crawler" programs are roving through webpages all over the internet trying to collect personal data – some do it simply to send you annoying, but harmless, spam solicitations others for worse reasons. A moderately computer literate high schooler could – unchecked – create a fake member of facebook or myspace, and then run a program that scours the various pages collecting data, sending friend requests and, eventually, sending spam messages (or worse) through the channel.

Websites are nothing more than a series of mathematical calculations and instructions that can create an image, send a message or store data. On a site like facebook, where interactivity with other members is the essential purpose, the programmers need to put protections in place to prevent web crawler programs from using the forums improperly. Sometimes it's as simple as making a site visitor sign in by copying deformed or obscure letter sequences contained in a graphic such programs have difficulty reading. But often the only way to tell whether activity is being done by a real human or an automated program is the speed and frequency at which its doing so. If you want to say Facebook set its threshold for making that decision too low – maybe you have a point. But to suggest they shouldn't do it at all is absurd.


Katie   February 14th, 2009 6:46 pm ET

I was recently removed from facebook, because they accused me of sending too many friend requests in too short a time, despite being warned.
Thing is, I hadn't even sent out any friend requests! Probably 10 or so tops in the past 6 months! And I never recieved any warning either! They unfairly removed me from the site for something I didn't do, and when I wrote an email to facebook support in order to get to the bottom of this they were no help at all. Just sent me generic responses and didn't seem to be even reading what I was trying to tell them.

Now I can't get my facebook back, even though I never did anything but use it to talk to my friends from home! 😦


DitchDX   February 14th, 2009 7:06 pm ET

Maybe Facebook doesn't need to show how many friends it's users have. it's a useless statistic, so why display it?


Mark Montoya   February 15th, 2009 12:53 am ET

Is this really an issue? Real relationships are what is important. If someone adds too many friends too quickly then I question how many are real friends anyway. Find something important to report on.


birdy   February 15th, 2009 3:49 am ET

you guys simply do not seem to get the big picture. one who adds friends so rapidly, they are probably about 99 percent likely to be a spammer/phisher. and folks on myspace who add friends indiscriminately, they have a much higher level of likelihood of adding someone who is devious that will "comment" on their page leaving malicious code. not only that, many are phished this way stealing passwords, etc. when the account has been breached, it will send out messages to the account users friends and those friends will trust the message and link included thinking it is from their friend... then that friend gets phished and their account information stolen and the cycle continues with their account being hijacked sending out fraudulant messages with malicious code to their friends.... by facebook blocking the amount of friends you can add at once, this significantly cuts down on this type of fraud.


Jay   February 15th, 2009 7:30 am ET

The more FB friends you add, the more dangerous it gets. After two FB hacks, the second of which destroyed my hard drive, I gave up my FB account, even though I had 1,200 "friends". Do I miss FB? Well, I don't miss the events invitations, the updates, the spoofing of come-ons, etc. In fact, I think it was a total waste of time.


Nikole   February 15th, 2009 9:38 am ET

I think limiting how many friend requests you can send out isn't hypocritical, it's common sense. Anyone that has any of the social networking sites knows the amount of spam sent can make you want to delete your account completely. At least they are trying to do something about that.
Why in the world would anyone send 180 friend requests in an hour? That's not padding, that's just desperate.


Paul in Louisville   February 15th, 2009 11:49 am ET

Gotta love the folks that come in here and say, "I don't care about Facebook!", yet take minutes out of their day to say so. Hmmmm...almost as neurotic as the friend padding, IMHO.


Franky   February 15th, 2009 4:44 pm ET

Boooo, Facebook sucks and so does Twitter, Youtube and so on...if you think you're gonna go far in life with that, HA...


Deby   February 15th, 2009 5:33 pm ET

No, I think Facebook has it right. I'm not sure I even know 200 people, let alone know 200 people well enough to add them as a friend. I recently removed as friends some folks that I realized I didn't really know that well or care about. I'm not interested in collecting people, I'm interested in being able to keep in touch with the folks I DO care about.


matt from tampa   February 15th, 2009 7:18 pm ET

Who cares? Our economy is a wreck and people are worrying about facebook.That is ridiculous!


Erik   February 15th, 2009 11:58 pm ET

It says the feature is there to prevent spamming or whatever. If you really are going to freak out if you dont add all your 398 friends within the next hour I think you have probably more important problems to deal with.


The Old Wolf   February 16th, 2009 12:52 am ET

I ran into this limit myself, and got the warning. It struck me as asinine, as I was adding friends that Facebook had suggested for me. In the end analysis, however, I had to admit that setting speed limits make some sense. It doesn't take too long for their monitoring gauge to reset so you can add more friends, and it does tend to limit people who might be adding friends at random. Facebook seems to be trying to tread an honest line between allowing people to network with their circles, and still protect the privacy of its clients – and it's not an easy job.


John Q   February 16th, 2009 2:15 pm ET

I think that this is an excellent idea. This web site was designed to network with people not harvest names as quickly as possible. It is the process of interacting that makes Facebook valuable. Like catching up with old aquaintances or former coworkers. Instead, many people merely see it for its value as a place with a large volume of names for them to use for their own agendas. This is one of the far less serious risks that Facebook users are exposed to but it is still a great example of how people view others on the web.


Craig   February 16th, 2009 2:29 pm ET

I'm still trying to figure out why people bother with having so many "friends" on these websites. Do people really give a damn about what these 'friends' did over the weekend, about how baskets their little brat made at their basketball game, about their golf score last weekend, about who they broke up with and who they're now sleeping with? Chances are, people who have more than a couple dozen (or even more than 10, for that matter) "friends" on these sites probably know very little about these people and have very little contact with them. Sure, "Facebook is a way of keeping up contact with them." But to what end? So you can gossip about them? So you can try to outdo whatever they post? So you can make yourself feel like a better person than you really are by pretending to give a damn about some you never see on a regular basis and never bother to call or send a card to? People toss the word 'friend' around far too flagrantly. A 'friend' is not some one you make by simply clicking on a "Yes" button. A friend is not the cousin of your border-line alcoholic college roommate whom you met once but wanted to sleep with. A friend is not your boss or coworker who politely lies to you when you ask them what they did last weekend, because deep down, they don't care enough to have that conversation with you. Those people don't know what 'friends' are. Your friends are the kind of people who offer you a place to stay when you're traveling, they ask to help you move despite that they despise the chore, they send you leads on jobs when you get laid off, they call out of concern because your voice 'didn't sound right' the last time you spoke over the phone. People, get some REAL friends.


Avery   May 15th, 2009 1:01 pm ET

I play Mafia Wars. Due to the nature of the game, I had to "Friend" more than 1,500 Facebookers to contend. If the third party applications are misaligned with Facebook's rules, they need to work that out.


Justin   June 30th, 2009 10:45 pm ET

I know this is a dead thread but I have to say something to Bruce:

You have apparently missed a paradigm change that occurred after your high-waisted slacks and penny loafers went out of style and after your hair turned grey: WE LIVE IN A CONNECTED WORLD.

That device in your pocket you so desperately want to "just call people" does a lot more and text messages are only the beginning. While waiting for the train you may patiently wait, looking around the station, but for the "younger generation" with their "head up their butts" we are engaging the world around us contacting friends, reading CNN (and Facebook) and its all happening in a blink, during the time you wasted gazing at the tiles in the station.

Because of this new level of connectivity, tools (yes, tools, not entertainment pieces or popularity metrics) have arisen to help connected people keep in touch with the vast number of people they are care about and are able to connect with on a momentary basis. Facebook does have a legitimate purpose.

And on not caring what other people think: I'm sorry you're so horribly misguided. That statement is never true about anyone, period. in you attack on Facebook and the people who peaceably use it you seek to lower their perceived value (which consciously or unconsciously) you calculated would raise your own value. You have disproved your one of your premises as someone who could even offer comment on this topic.

Please, o please, Bruce, don't resort to this "younger generation" bandwagon when you see a problem with society. We in the "younger generation" are a dynamic range of humanity, just like the people you graduated with. Some are idiots, some geniuses, and many in between and sideways from the continuum. Please resist ever putting humanity in a box.


gnome   December 4th, 2009 4:54 pm ET

It is quite possible that someone really knows that many people and would be able to genuinely add that many people in less than 1 hour. If they first joined Facebook, and first decide to add say some close friends that have bee long established on Facebook (family, high school friends, elementary, college sorority sister, co-worker), then from those friends start adding all their aquiantances that they genuinely know too, even if its someone they lent an eraser to in grade 3 or someone they say hi to at the water cooler every day – it quickly adds up. Think of how many people you've met in your life. Some people are naturally extroverted and have a warm personality, and if like people, and have a good memory for people and names, they probably could genuinenly add that many people in less than two hours.


booshamp   December 17th, 2009 11:53 pm ET

Speaking of padding, let us be friends and rejoice in the inaccurate portrayal of acquaintance: http://www.facebook.com/booshamp


CM   January 18th, 2010 2:44 pm ET

Yeah, My son was on facebook and he told me that he and his school friends were planning to be friends with him there so like the first day he had 0-40 second day 80 then third day some where like 130's and he got a warning saying if he "Adds" any more he will be kicked out; but, he wasn't the one adding them. How strange? So he wrote a message to him self and i think a facebook staff took a look at it; someone finally stop warning him.


OrganicHotsauce.com   May 25th, 2010 3:54 am ET

I absolutely feel that there should be no limit to the number of friends you can have.. Time limit in between adding.. Sure.. It's a pain in the ass but whatever. I hope at some point the limit is removed. The friend-ee doesn't have to accept the request.


pissed off fb user   June 16th, 2010 2:51 am ET

GLAD TO SEE I ADD FRIENDS THEY (fb) SUGGESTED, AND THEN BLOCK ME CAUSE I ADDED THEM!


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