Sunday, November 27, 2011

Facebook Etiquette: The Friend Request

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I’ve recently been faced with a dilemma which all of you on Facebook have found yourself confronting at one time or another…if not before, then it will one day undoubtedly happen.

The decision of whether or not to accept that notorious ‘friend request’.

Something important to know about Facebook before we go any further is that it is a social network; more importantly your social network. It is a place where you go, where you post what you’re doing in your life. Often people will post photos of their families and important events; Facebook is a place to keep the people you care about updated on what and how you’re doing.

However, with any great technology comes the downside. There are times when an acquaintance you know finds you on Facebook through the comment you left on someone else’s status, while browsing through their friends, or even through the “Friends Suggestion” application. Whatever means they used to find you doesn’t matter—it just matters that they did. They click excitedly over to your profile only to get the message which says: “_______ only shares certain information with everyone. To learn more about _________, add them as a friend.”

Upon seeing that message they click on the link and get the ‘friend request’ popup message: “_________ will have to confirm that you are friends.”

Poor, unsuspecting you logs into Facebook at some clandestine later time to discover that the social friendship ball has been knocked into your court; unfortunately this other person is often bound and determined to get you added in to their collection of social friends and vice-versa.

This is where many people start to waver. They start to wonder if they should just accept the request…after all, they hit ignore twice already and the person has since repeated the request. I have a friend who denied a request over six times from one person—sometimes, others just can’t take a hint.

I love what “Dear Ken” from Socialsama had to say on the matter to a woman who wrote in about this very thing. His response to her was this:

Are you a Facebook ho and accept all friend requests, or do you want to set up a friend criteria? Sooner or later you will have to choose the latter. I had a great conversation from a “mom” perspective with my wife and her cousin about this. Cousin Madge put it in simple terms, “I befriend them on Facebook if I feel comfortable enough with showing my kids’ pics to them.”

I love the simplicity of the response. The first thing you should ask yourself is: are you comfortable in having this person added as your friend? If not, your answer is already loud and clear.

Now, by having a lot of contacts, I’m in no way implying that you are seeking friends on Facebook as a social badge of honor—but let’s be candid here, there are people out there who do. They feel that if they have a slew of ‘friends’ on their list, it makes them important and gives them some kind of cyberspacular popularity.

Is that what you want; five hundred ‘friends’ whom you could care less about, or thirty you really like? Now, maybe you really do have five hundred people whom you love and they all love you back; and maybe I’m incredibly jealous because of it… perhaps you also found the secret way to get into Narnia AND Hogwarts. If so, add me as your friend, too.

I would have to suggest that you need to ask yourself a few questions about your Facebook Friend Request…Would you feel comfortable in inviting this person over to dinner? Hanging out with them for an evening? Sitting with them at a social gathering for longer than twenty minutes? Sending them a friendly email? Calling them on the phone just to say hello? Waving at them as you pass by them on the street?

If you can’t answer to yes to any of the above questions, I’d be hesitant to accept that friend request. In fact, I’d be hesitant if I could only answer yes to only one or two of them.

It was Gavin Morgan at Loose Gravel who came up with a simple ‘test’ to see whether or not you should really accept that Facebook request.

How long ago in months has it been since you last spoke to this person?
  1. >24
  2. 2 - 24
  3. 0 - 2
*if you can't remember, then the answer is #1

How would you rate the quality of interaction you have/had with this person? If you just met the person, what is your guess about the quality of interaction you will have?
  1. Nauseating to just okay
  2. Pretty good
  3. Exceptional

If you went the rest of your life never hearing from this person ever again, how noticeable would it be? Again, if you recently met the person, take your best guess.
  1. Noticeably awesome to Would never notice
  2. Occasionally noticeable
  3. Extremely noticeable
If your score is 6-9, friend them; if your score is 3-5, feel free to ignore that request.

Still not convinced of what to do?

Well, if you still can’t make up your mind you could always just hit accept for now and change their settings to restricted - this way, there are limitations as to what they can view on your page and what updates the’ll have access to. You could add them to a certain group so that their updates are not shown in your usual stream, or you could even add them for now and then go in and delete them as a friend in a month or two. Since Facebook doesn’t notify people when their friendship status has been revoked, you could always just blame it on a fault in the program if the ‘revoking’ was ever discovered.

For now, it might be enough to keep the wolves off your back.

Whatever the route you choose to take, just remember that this is YOUR social network. Think of why you have it and the people you want to be a part of it. There will come a point when you have to make a decision of just who you’re willing to accept. One semi-drastic measure you could always take if you're worried about offending anyone (or are just sick of the huge list you already have) is to simply delete everyone in your friends list and start over again from scratch. I did that once and it was quite the liberating feeling; the really great thing is that nobody could say that I deleted them and only them...not when I told them that I deleted my parents, too.


Linn said...

Funny you should post this today...I just went through my friends list to remove a few (well, quite a few as always). That sounds kind of harsh, but I don't mean it that way. I just go through it every month or two to make sure that those that are on my list are people I feel completely comfortable with.

We have moved a million times, so we do have friends from all over. That being said, I am quite careful about who I say yes to. I would way rather insult someone than have someone on list I don't feel comfortable with or really don't know at all.

Great post! Oh, and you made the cut. :)

Gerb said...

I totally delete people on a regular basis and then feign innocence when a few have had to make the request again. Another of my criteria? If it's someone I haven't talked with in years who doesn't even leave a little note with their request ("Hey Gerb, long time, no see!" is enough) then I often ignore it.

Corine said...

Having a huge friends list on facebook is NOT on my list of wants. I am careful about who I request. I do accept the sweet teenagers and pre-teens from church who add me on, and am more than happy to be a friend should they really desire me to be.

I have to admit, though, I have accepted requests from several adult 'individuals,' -whom I have no desire to ever see on facebook- so as not to hurt feelings.

Thankfully I am notuncomfortable with those who are on my friend list - except for a few, who, upon reading this I feel just peachy about deleeting!

Great Blog! Thanks! :D

P.S. Hope you did't feel obligated to add me! :~

Holms TP said...

My criteria is if I have a memorable moment with the person they are added.

In college my roommates would 'stock' girls and add them when the words 'hi' were uttered on the sidewalk. I never stooped to that level.

I am impressed with your 117 friend requests though.

P.S. If a lot of these people adding you are fans of your blog or your photography or cookie dough, you could always create fan page specifically for those people and keep your profile a private matter.

I really just showed my internet addict knowledge with all of that, but oh well.

Anonymous said...

Cool post! I have had to ignore requests with an "ummm...don't think I actually know you, dude!" several times for several Extremely Persistent Fellas, which always cracks me up. There's an article, too, on this very issue from Real Simple on my Facebook page [I'll send you a friend request...we'll see if I pass muster ;) ]. It's in my Notes section if I remember correctly.

Danielle said...

I'm with you!

MindyElias said...

So once you get some control over who knows how you spent your Tuesday morning, you (well really me, not sure about you!) gets into TWITTER and then all that private stuff goes out the window!

It's weird for me to have random people and not so random people following me on twitter.

So how did you handle the bazillion requests from people that "know" you via your blog?

jayniemoon said...

Now I'm really glad I haven't joined facebook. The pressure!

Shayla said...

Very nice. I also have a hard time with this. Just think if there was no Facebook I would never go around say to people I have 406 friend how many do you have? My phone doesn't even hold that many numbers. At least I don't think it does. I could be wrong. Maybe if all those people would just give me their numbers and we actually did something together. I know it's important to remember that I use to have friends(in high school different wards) that I don't really keep in contact with. It's kinda like high school reunions. I won't go to them because I have kept in contact with those that I really like and wanted to keep in touch with. Now that I have said way way too much...I'm going to check facebook. J/K

Leah Z said...

Part of this conflict comes from people like me, who see Facebook as the best way to keep track of people you're only moderately interested in.

I delineate this way:

LinkedIn -- Business contacts only.

Facebook Friends or acquaintances; people who I'd never call but who I would recognize on the street (though I might not remember how I know them).

Blogs Close friends only. People who would have gotten more than a "Have a nice summer" in their yearbook.

Facebook offers a convenience similar to a text message: Information without commitment; no conversation required. I can see Former Ward Member's new baby and leave a comment without having to awkwardly hash through the last eigth years of life. Without Facebook, I would have just forgotten Former Ward Member.

I am friends with my close friends on Facebook too, but the bigger compliment is to be in my Google Reader feed.

Bee said...

Mr. Z,
I have been having this same conversation with a couple of my friends. I have done exactly what you lastly mentioned. I have accepted people who I know probably know me, and then I delete them later so I don't hurt their feelings. On my list of things to do this weekend is clean out my friends list. I have to be so careful who I accept because of the size of the county I work in. Things have a way of getting around, if you know what I mean.

Basically, if I do not know enough about someone to feel comfortable with them knowing where I live, they're off the list. Or if they are someone I don't want knowing about my trivial living habits, they're off the list too. My hope is that they'll never know I deleted them because I am no more important to them than they are to me.

I think for many it is high school popularity all over again. Ick, ick, ick!

Lars said...

Loved the Narnia quip. This is me being completely judgmental but whenever I see friends with over 500 "friends" I view them as a facebook comment whore slash addict. Thank goodness for privacy settings and the ability to decline!

Teachinfourth said...

L - Glad that I made the cut, Linn. Thanks also for your's funny, but I think you're completely right; sometimes we do need to do a bit of 'spring cleaning' to our FB contacts just to keep it manageable.

G - A good motto to live by says I.

C - I haven't deleted you as of yet.


T - Your geek is truly showing, or Internet savvy. Call it what you will...however, like what was said before, 'friends' is such an ambiguous word because it carries such a broad definition, you know?

L - I've gotten a few of those as well; people who just want to be added to 'the wall.' I've had to reject people more than once - of course, it's nothing personal.

D - Good, then I'll keep you as a friend.

M - A few rejections were in order if I don't know people at all...that's what it's all about. If I do know someone, they've commented, or I just like them, they've probably made it even if I only know them through blogger.

J - And one more addiction to feed...

S - You make me laugh once-again.

L - Good way to group and categorize! If I had LinkedIn (not even sure what it is) I'd accept yo into all three...

B - One word, really: Drama.

L - Amen, sister! Of course, no offense is intended to those who do have a million friends, either...

Cherie said...

I don't Facebook - I may be out of the loop but at least I don't have to worry about this - hee hee.

Rachel said...

I wasn't popular in high school, why should FB be any different... excepting I wasn't popular in high school so I try to get as many friends on FB as possible so it looks like I was/am popular. ;)

Anonymous said...

Delurking here - I don't agonize over friends on Facebook. If you're family or friend I'll add you. Long ago friends or acquaintances, probably. If I don't know you, it ain't happening. Also, I like to keep my blog and Facebook separate (because I keep my blog semiprivate from family and friends), but there are a small handful of bloggers that I have added. And my friend list is small but significant - I add people because I want them to be my friend, not to keep score on who has the most friends.

gb5 said...

I just block people who either I don't know very well or from whom I would rather not accept the request. That basically means that you no longer even exist to them on Facebook, as if you had deleted your account. If you just reject their request, they will still be able to see news feeds from your profile, and they will likely know that your are rejecting their request. If you block them, you just disappear from them completely.

Connie said...

This must be the reason I'm not on Facebook. I just don't have to worry about it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a Facebook Ho I believe in sharing ideas, values and information with people. However...I have not a worry in the world about deleting someone who gets out of line. Kind of like Meet the Fockers, "Your either in or out of the Circle of trust. screw up and your permanently outside the circle." You can stare at my profile pic all you want but you get nothing else. Lol. Ciao!

Tonya said...

Recently deleted 100+ FB friends... None of them noticed. Well, maybe they did, but since we're no longer friends I wasn't subjected to their whiny posts about how I don't like them anymore...

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