Have you wondered how does Facebook determine which friends show up in the chat sidebar? I bet all of you have experiences with to see friends that you interacted a lot not appearing on the list while others that you rarely talk with (since you’ve met that person only once but added his/her Facebook anyways) come up on the top of the list. I have also paid attention to the people who are appearing on my list. People in the list were not necessarily those who have been interacting with me most frequently or recently. In other words, it does not seem to proportional to the amount of likes, comments, and shares. Hence, many users in fact guess about the algorithm behind the list and order of friends appearing as “active” with green dots next to their names. Some assumptions claim it is based on how often they visit your page. Others say they are ones who messages the most. There are in fact various guesses and plausible analyses, but the most accurate answer is still unknown.
How about suggestions on “People You May Know?” Recall that Facebook, just like all other social networks out there, asks for contact info such as e-mail address and phone numbers when you sign up for the first time, telling you this information will help you finding friends on Facebook. As you enrich your profile with your jobs, schools, home town, and current city, Facebook uses them to find your friends accordingly. Thanks to powerful network effect of social media, mutual friends and even friends of friends are suggested to become your Facebook friends. At some point, you start to see random “suggested friends” that you have never met before, but they are simply from same home town per say. Logics behind both chatting list and friend suggestions are still mysterious as there are endless questions of WHY and HOW all these random people show up on my Facebook.
At the same time, another huge question arises in our minds. “What extent are we allowed to be in a private area?” Knowing which users are looking at my page has the question of whether the information of the users I access is private or not, even if the policy does not show. In other words, records of my activities (visiting others’ timeline, commenting on someone’s page, or even not hitting a like button for my best friend’s new profile picture) will remain, and I wonder “Isn’t that record also my private area?” More importantly, what are circumstance of private area that I agreed to share on the internet? The terms of agreements between the and the service provider exist, but the separation of the private areas is still unclear. When you set information only visible to yourself, it is questionable whether the boundaries of the private area are excluding the system administrator who has full control.
The primary motivation of wondering the lists of (suggested) friends on Facebook comes from your instinct to take control of your own private area. As our living areas stay on the Internet, our personal life has become a world that is more familiar to the Internet than myself. We are also willing to actively communicate such personal activities by sharing pictures of what we ate, where we went, and reviews and feelings from those experiences. It is helpful information for others, especially when there are tons of information accessible throughout multiple sources. Meanwhile, we start feeling uneasy as the amount of information becomes too big to take control by ourselves. As a result, we want to know who is viewing my page, but we have to speculate through the list of friends and the information that shows us a variety of things since you do not have clear answers for those secret algorithms.
In the end, we cannot even know who has viewed my page. We cannot tell if the friend list is organized by what reason as well. It is in-platform policy that it is not possible to provide that principle to curious users. So you can wonder why, but must follow it regardless. For most of cases, since you are prone to so many data from you being shared somewhere you do not recognize, you might want to ensure whether or not such information falls within a private area. But, is the information only I can see protected by the private area? Unfortunately, all such principles are subject to the judgment and decision of the service provider. Also, do you believe that the information is protected if it is not explained by the service provider or not? The majority of web services that we use every day are missing concrete concept of private areas. We need to agree upon the circumstances of the private areas at least wherein personal information should not be used for any other purposes.