Facebook Etiquette: To friend or to ignore? That is the question.

facebookrumyfriend.3.jpgDear Mr. Loose Gravel,

I have a real dilemma so please help: An old childhood neighborhood friend sent me a "friend" request on facebook months ago. Since I've had no contact with her in two decades, I checked her pictures before deciding whether or not to accept the friend request. Turns out she looked really heavy and boring, so I just ignored it. Then her more interesting and attractive little sister facebook-friended me (I accepted) and we exchanged a few messages. Little sister and I had actually been friends in the past, though, and her older sister was more like an acquaintance. Shortly thereafter I received a message from the older sister saying she "heard I was on facebook," and that she, "hopes everything is well."

What do I do about this? Do I pretty much have to accept the friend request now?

Sincerely,

Nowiwannaturnofffacebook


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Dear Nowiwannaturnofffacebook,

One of the huge advantages of Facebook is that you can gatekeep exactly who has access to your page, so it matters who you accept as friends. The people you select as friends are able to peruse everything you've posted, and everything the rest of your friends post about you (assuming you don't manually modify their access to your page). By accepting friend requests out of guilt, you relinquish the biggest right you have as a facebook patron.

You may be concerned that ignoring a friend request is a mean thing to do. Logically, if one of the parties in a friend request questions whether or not they want to accept or ignore, the correct answer is more than likely "ignore", as you probably aren't good friends on the actual non-cyber terra firma. Still, is it cruel to ignore? I say it's off-putting, if not cruel, to be presumptuous about your friendships! Casting friend requests to folks you barely know or haven't talk with in 20 years can be irresponsible, as really nice people feel forced to accept the request, and the cold-hearted consider whether or not to ignore. So yes, you may feel a little mean when ignoring a friend request, but keep in mind the requestor put you in a tough position.

To be fair, it's prudent to ask yourself what the real harm is when accepting facebook friends. If you don't mind having a mild acquaintance who doesn't embarrass you by association, then really, what is the harm?

For the times you find yourself really wondering if you should 'accept' or 'ignore' a potential facebook friend, I made a short self-test. You're welcome. Just pick the best answer to each question and add up corresponding numbers.

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 ok
    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.

So Nowiwannaturnofffacebook, since your old neighborhood buddy would probably score 3-4, here is what I would do: Reply to the note she sent you by acknowledging that you are indeed on facebook and thank her for her well-wishes. Leave it at that. If she then sends another friend request, ignore it if you still want to. She will get the message that you are not facebooking everyone you've ever known. If her more interesting sister ever asks you why you never accepted her older sister's friend request, just tell her that you didn't think that you two were close enough friends for that kind of commitment.

Send your question for Gavin



Dear Mr. Loose Gravel,

I have a real dilemma so please help: An old childhood neighborhood friend sent me a "friend" request on facebook months ago. Since I've had no contact with her in two decades, I checked her pictures before deciding whether or not to accept the friend request. Turns out she looked really heavy and boring, so I just ignored it. Then her more interesting and attractive little sister facebook-friended me (I accepted) and we exchanged a few messages. Little sister and I had actually been friends in the past, though, and her older sister was more like an acquaintance. Shortly thereafter I received a message from the heavier sister saying she "heard I was on facebook," and that she, "hopes everything is well."

What do I do about this? Do I pretty much have to accept the friend request now?

Sincerely,

Nowiwannaturnofffacebook


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facebookrumyfriend.jpg

Dear Nowiwannaturnofffacebook,

Short answer: No, you do not need to accept the friend request.

One of the huge advantages of Facebook is that you can gate-keep who has access to your page. It matters who you accept as friends, as they will be able to peruse everything you post (assuming you don't manually modify their access to your page). By accepting friend requests out of guilt, you relinquish the biggest right you have as a facebook patron.

You may be concerned that ignoring a friend request is a mean thing to do. Logically, if one of the parties in a friend request questions whether or not they want to accept or ignore, the correct answer is more than likely "ignore", as you probably aren't good friends on the actual, non-cyber terra firma. Still, is it cruel to ignore? I say it's off-putting, if not cruel, to be presumptuous about your friendships! Casting friend requests to folks you barely know or haven't talk with in 20 years can be irresponsible, as really nice people feel forced to accept the request, and the cold-hearted consider whether or not to ignore.

To be fair, it's probably prudent to ask yourself what the real harm is when accepting facebook friends. If you don't mind having a mild acquaintance who doesn't embarrass you by association, then really, what is the harm?

For the times you find yourself really wondering if you should 'accept' or 'ignore' a potential facebook friend, I made a short self-test. You're welcome. Just pick the best answer to each question and add up corresponding numbers.

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 ok
    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.

So Nowiwannaturnofffacebook, since your old neighborhood buddy would probably score 3-4, here is what I would do: Reply to the note she sent you by acknowledging that you are indeed on facebook and thank her for her well-wishes. Leave it at that. If she then sends another friend request, ignore it if you still want to. She will get the message that you are not facebooking everyone you've ever known. If her more interesting sister ever asks you why you never accepted her older sister's friend request, just tell her that you didn't think that you guys were close enough friends for that kind of commitment.


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krildog writes:
These social networking sites are going to be the downfall of our civilization. Conversational skills are no longer valued in this world of instant messaging and texts, and now we are devaluing friendship and camaraderie by affiliating ourselves with any Facebook friend that will have us. Socially, we have become the very door-to-door salesmen that we hide from in our neighborhoods. "Oh crap, did he see me through the window?" has become "Oh crap, do you think he'll try to befriend me (on Facebook)?" The second you start asking yourself if you "have to" befriend someone, you've already corrupted and devalued the lost art of true friendship.

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