What It Means To Be Friends on Facebook
On Facebook, friendships are reciprocal, which means if you add someone as a friend, they have to confirm the friendship before it appears on both timelines. If someone adds you as a friend, you can choose between Confirm and Not Now. If you confirm the friend, congrats: You have a new friend! And if you ignore the friend, the other person won’t be informed.
In many ways, a Facebook friend is the same as a real-life friend. These are the people you hang out with, keep in touch with, care about, and want to publicly acknowledge as a friend. These aren’t people you met on Facebook; rather they're the people you call on the phone; stop and catch up with if you cross paths at the grocery; or invite over for parties, dinners, and general social gatherings.
In real life, there are lots of shades of friendship. Think of the differences between acquaintances, a friend from work, an activity buddy, and best friends. Facebook gives you a few tools for negotiating these levels of friendship, but by default, most friendships are lumped into a blanket category of friend.
So here’s what happens, by default, in a Facebook friendship.
They can see your posts and other information on your timeline. Remember, this is what happens by default. You can actually control which friends can see which posts more specifically by learning about your privacy options.
They also see new posts in their News Feeds and Tickers on their Home page: Again, the information your friends see in their News Feeds and Tickers depends on the audience you’ve chosen to share each post with Friends (or subscribers) can only see posts you’ve published to that audience.
You can see their posts and other information on their timeline: This, of course, depends on their own privacy settings, but in general, you’ll be able to see more as a friend than you did before you became friends.
You also see new posts from them in your News Feed and Ticker on your Home page: This depends on your friend’s sharing settings, but more importantly, you can control whose posts you see in your News Feed and Ticker through managing your subscriptions. Subscribing to someone’s posts is similar to subscribing to a daily newspaper: their posts show up every day on your front stoop . . . er, Home page. Like a very advanced newspaper subscription, you can control how much you see about any one person, and even choose certain types of posts you want to see. You can also fully unsubscribe from someone’s posts while still remaining friends with them.
You’ll be listed as friends on one another’s timeline: This is a small detail, but it’s important in understanding the difference between becoming friends with someone and simply subscribing to someone’s posts. Lots of people, especially public figures or people who have a business of some sort, allow you to subscribe to their posts without becoming friends. In these cases, you see their posts on your Home page, but they won’t see your posts unless they choose to subscribe to you.