Facebook’s ‘not now’ feature—a limbo you can assign friend requests to that still puts your public updates in the denied requester’s news stream—has people asking why Facebook is making it harder to sidestep unwanted friend requests.
It’s not interface design ineptitude or an attempt to be Twitter-like (the limbo creates a sort of unwanted ‘follow’ situation). It’s survival.
Facebook is up against the natural friend limit of our species. We only have so many ex-coworkers, elementary school pals, and yoga class acquaintances. A lot of us are disinclined to accept friend requests from people we haven’t met IRL or don’t really know.
Facebook makes money based on how many friends you have (the reach of your social graph) and how much information you make public (preferences for advertisers to target).
They need ways to combat the end of your friend cycle. You must keep adding friends to grow their profits.
Continued friending serves another purpose: keeping content fresh. There’s a buzz to the social acceptance of agreeing to be friends—remember when you first signed up and it was new friend town? Bzzz!
I’m sure you have a few outgoing, probably hilarious friends who are frequent posters, sharing links and performing their stand-up routine to a captive audience. Your feed is probably 80/20, with 20% of your friends hogging 80% of the news feed. Some fresh content from new friends is critical to keeping your attention.
We all know what happens when the same old people show up at the bar weekend after weekend. We can only admire their new outfit so often. Then we hear about the new bar up the street, and decide to check it out.
Facebook is trying to block the emergency exits.