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Facebook's "suggestions" show limits of social media

Since Faceboook made a few changes recently, active users have probably noticed a lot more "suggestions'' prompting you to interact with people you haven't paid attention to for a long time -- and maybe aren't even around anymore.

That's been the case with many of my coworkers, who are mourning the loss of a friend and former Miami Herald editor Mike McQueen, who died two weeks ago.

Mike mcqueenLast week was his birthday, and many received reminders to send him well wishes. Others noticed even before his birthday that Facebook was prompting them to contact him, via the new suggestions section on the far right hand column of their profile pages.

Facebook doesn't know that someone has died until it's reported -- it has a form that can be filled out by close family or friends that changes a person's page to what they call a "memorial page.'

Facebook spokeswoman Meredith Chin told me in an e-mail that suggestions are based on profiles of people who aren't very active or completely filled out, and that they're made to encourage those users to interact with others on Facebook more. I get that - but wonder if this will also irritate active users who don't want to see the Facebook slackers..anyone else feel that way?

That explains why one of the suggestions I keep getting is my sister. She's a busy mom of three young kids who has barely finished her profile. Still, we talk or text each other every day, but Facebook doesn't know that -- so it keeps giving suggestions to ``get in touch with her."

That's one of the limitations of social media right now, and something that should be incorporated in future evolutions. People are already interacting so much on Facebook that it's become a part of our lives. The next step in social media needs to be an integration of the two.

Until then, be careful -- even if Facebook suggests you poke your boss, you know that's not a good idea.

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