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?
- 2 - 24
- 0 - 2
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?
- Nauseating to just okay
- Pretty good
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.
- Noticeably awesome to Would never notice
- Occasionally noticeable
- Extremely noticeable
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.