Facebook Isn't A Social Network. And Stop Trying to Make New Friends There

A controversy is brewing over a popular Facebook application called PackRat, where users collect sets of illustrated cards for points and levels. The company behind the application, Alamofire, says that users generate up to 500 daily page views per day on the application trying to hunt down the right card to complete a collection.

A big part of the game is “stealing” cards from friends, and so a lot of users add other users as friends so that their cards can be obtained. The application’s popularity has also led some users to create Facebook accounts for the sole purpose of playing the game.

Some of those accounts are now being disabled by Facebook, according to this discussion forum on the application site.

What’s curious is the email sent from Facebook to one deleted user, which states that Facebook isn’t a social network (it’s a “social utility”) and isn’t meant to build large groups of new friends. Instead, Facebook is meant to reinforce “pre-existing” social connections:

Please note that Facebook accounts are meant for authentic usage only. This means that we expect accounts to reflect mainly “real-world” contacts (i.e. your family, schoolmates, co-workers, etc.), rather than mainly “internet-only” contacts. As stated on our home page, Facebook is a social utility that connects you with the people around you, not a “social networking site”. It is meant to help reinforce pre-existing social connections, not build large groups of new ones. If this is in direct contrast to what you expected as legitimate Facebook usage, I apologize for any confusion. This is simply the intention behind the site.

Accounts that are used solely for the purpose of applications are in violation of our Terms of Use. Unfortunately, I will not be able to reactivate your account. Sorry for any inconvenience, but this decision is final.

Thanks for your understanding,

User Operations

It’s true that Facebook has stated clearly that their intention is to be a sort of mirror to the real world social graph. But it’s unavoidably true that new friendships are made on the site, too. Even friendships forged for the sole purpose of playing a game made by a third party developer.

Even former Facebook President Sean Parker (and current stockholder) said recently at TechCrunch50 that he had far more Facebook friends than real world friends.

Facebook’s real message here may be “please don’t make fake accounts just to play this game,” but that isn’t what they’re saying. I’ve emailed them for clarification.

Update: Facebook responded to the email I sent. A spokesperson says “To simplify this a bit, users on Facebook cannot have more than one account and creating another account for the purpose of playing this game violates our Terms of Use. We recognize and appreciate that each person uses Facebook based on their own interests and preferences and are happy to see people meeting new friends on Facebook. To ensure users are comfortable on the site and not burdened by unsolicited contact, we encourage users to add people that reflect their real-world connections and create trusted networks.”