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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,

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.

Robert   February 14th, 2009 11:57 am ET

Who cares? If you are truly that concerned over the Facebook's rules, you really need to get a life – one in which you actually meet and talk to people in the flesh, and not just add them to your Facebook wall like so many JPEG trophy heads.

Whocares   February 14th, 2009 12:00 pm ET

For one person adding friends 180 in one sitting is WAY generous. No one person could keep up with that many friends total. Plus, it's how many friend requests an account sends out, NOT how many you can gain. So, if you have "fans" by the hundreds, they should have no problem adding at their leisure.

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?

John   February 14th, 2009 7:41 pm ET

What about bands, companies, or organizations who want to find their supporters?

robscott2007   February 14th, 2009 7:52 pm ET

Most people I have listed as friends on Facebook, I don't even like. I started pruning people out not long ago – but then they started noticing.

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.

Dean   February 15th, 2009 10:02 am ET

Facebook has helped people track down old friends that they haven't heard from for a while, and most of us just say hi, catch up, and have a few laughs. An old friend I found through Facebook said that collecting Facebook friends is like collecting CD's, we don't necessarily listen to all of them all the time, but it's nice to know they're there. A 20 year old with a thousand friends is laughable, but I was impressed that over 600,000 people acknowledged Captain Sully Sullenberger on Facebook after the Miracle on the Hudson. It's just a tool, to be used ... or abused.

Scott   February 15th, 2009 10:43 am ET

Who possibly cares how many or how fast people have "friends" on Facebook

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.

Amy   February 15th, 2009 11:51 am ET

My rule is... if you aren't my friend in real life, you don't get to be my friend in cyber life...

Susan   February 15th, 2009 1:16 pm ET

I'm glad Facebook does this; the deluge of friend invites on MySpace is what made me quit MySpace.

Bob   February 15th, 2009 3:29 pm ET

I just started using facebook about a month ago. I use it to keep touch with old friends and out of state relatives. That takes up about 20 friends. I also use it to keep touch with business associates to share ideas, which amounts to about 150 "friends". I do see what appears to be friend padding, but it is a useful tool also.

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!

Joshua   February 15th, 2009 8:25 pm ET

well, as for the last part of the artice, it takes a lot longer than a few hours to FIND over 200 friends, I have 276 friends and it has taken me 2 YEARS to find them all...

Franko   February 15th, 2009 11:55 pm ET

Your FaceBook will be referenced, psychological potential analized
Correlated with known Terrorists, before you are allowed
Make shure you remember every friend, consistent with RFID logging

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.

specter   February 16th, 2009 12:41 pm ET

I have about 595 friends at the moment. I don't add anyone lightly either. I consider it for a bit, and what it means to have or not have someone as a friend.

As a youth group leader, I have close to 300 or more people that I know because of the youth group. I have a few from education, and a few friends of friends that were in my social circles at different times in the last 10 years.

I also have a large family, so that adds a lot in the way of cousins and things.

The there's my work in the entertainment industry, where I know people in different fields of work as well as from all over the country that I've actually met face to face.

It's amazing that I can, with this many friends, say that I've met in person at least 95% of them and at most 98%. I know for a fact that there are a few that I've never met personally, but that number is very small.

However, adding 180 instantly? I don't know about that. This was a build up over time. I think when I joined, I immediately friended about 50.

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.

Aurixx   February 17th, 2009 12:03 pm ET

The limit makes sense, because break it down: 180 friends in 1 hour (sixty minutes). That means you add people at an average of one person every 20 seconds. I believe if you actually care who is on that Facebook site, it would take more than twenty seconds to evaluate and invite. Think if you had twenty second conversation before determining stuff at home or at work that may let a psycho into your midsts. Sounds stupid in reality, doesn't it?

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:

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.   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


Anonymous   July 15th, 2010 2:00 am ET

I am a frequent Facebook user. I do not mind the limit on adding friends. If you can't add them now, add them later! And to another person who commented on this discussion...I use facebook and yes I do like to know what my friends did over the weekend. It opens up more social conversation. If you do not know what you're talking about you shouldn't say anything.

Joey Duff   November 2nd, 2010 3:10 pm ET

I think Facebook is a joke for trying to control people in this way. Who gave them the right to decide who and how many friends you have / make, or how fast you get them? And yet they advertise every day to use their own 'friend-adder.' They have no problem sharing our private information with the highest bidder in the guise of online games like 'Mafia Wars' and others; but try and add too many friends in a day – and they openly accuse you of adding strangers – and threaten you like you're back in high school. This is the United States remember ... freedom? Somebody tell that to Facebook.

Derk   June 24th, 2011 1:45 pm ET

I have no problem with FB having limits but this seems to be a secret, they need to have the limit where people can plainly see it. What is deceiving is FB commonly has windows on your main page which suggest friends sometimes by stating you have many friends in common with this person. They have a button for you to "add friend" so this suggests that this is something you might want to do. Is not FB about networking? FB also has options to share a "cause" so people who want to share a cause want to befriend as many people as possible. What's wrong with this? Its not an insecurity issue with a person because they want many friends, its the purpose. Do news media suffer from this because they want a huge reader base? So it really depends on what you use FB for.

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