Reader request: handling unwanted Facebook friend requests

               From time to time, we have all received unwanted friend requests on Facebook. Per a reader’s request, I wrote the following to demonstrate how I would handle such a matter; I hope it is helpful for those who may find themselves in this situation.

               First of all, trust your instincts and be assured that whatever reasons you have for not wanting to befriend someone on Facebook are valid.   A Facebook account can reveal much personal information, acting as a sort of journal, photo album, billboard, and calendar.   In my opinion, a person revealing any personal info has every right to be choosy about whom she shares it with, and I believe that Facebook friends should be picked as carefully as one’s friends in real life.   If the person requesting friendship is on the outside of your real life friends circle for whatever reason, it is probably best to skip Facebook friendship as that is so superficial to begin with that it will likely never lead to anything deeper.

               When dealing with the unwanted request, ignore it instead of deleting it.   If you delete, the same person will be able to add you again, and you may find yourself caught up in a cycle of requesting and deleting, certainly not an elegant way to handle things.   If things have already progressed to this point, you may consider blocking her.   However, since she already knows how to access your profile, if all access to you (and comments from you on mutual friends’ pages) disappears, it will be fairly obvious to her that you blocked her, and this may lead to hurt feelings and an unpleasant exchange.   That said, if you ever feel the need to block anyone for any reason, I encourage you to do so;   it is just Facebook, after all, and you have every right to live by boundaries that make you feel comfortable.

               Next, you must deal with the possible confrontation with the person whose request you rejected or ignored.   If you did not block her, she may still be able to see you online, especially since Facebook’s privacy policy has loosened up in recent years.   You can still set everything on your profile (except cover photo) to friends only and your message and request preferences to “friends of friends.”   But whatever you post on the page of a mutual friend between you and her could be seen by her, as well as anything you post publicly such as on a page or public profile.   So not befriending someone on Facebook may not necessarily insulate you from any drama someone wishes to stir up based on what you say on there.

               If the person who sent the request confronts you in person and asks if you got the request, or worse, demands why you haven’t accepted it, the best answer is a truthful, non-apologetic one about your preferences, such as one I commonly use:  “Thank you for the request, but I limit my Facebook to family members and close friends” or “I saw your request, but recently decided to limit my Facebook to family only.”   No one but you can determine who you consider family and close friends, so that answer generally does not leave room for discussion, but the person may choose to take offense.   Still, remain firm and elegant, because it is within your right to be as discriminating as you want with something like a social networking profile.   Above all, refrain from going back and forth, one of the most inelegant maneuvers ever to my mind, and either change the subject or excuse yourself if someone presses you for a response.   Imagine your calm, imperturbable spirit being the cold water doused upon the flames of contention.

               To sum up, be picky about who you befriend online and kind but clear when you are questioned about it.   Others may disagree, but in my mind it does not even come close to being snobby to befriend certain people on Facebook and not others.   To me, the true test of character and manners still occurs with how people treat each other in real life, since the internet is merely a portal through which communication occurs, not the culmination of human interaction.   For example, pretending that a seat is reserved when it is not at lunch, ignoring someone who communicates with you at work, being petty, or something else juvenile like that, would definitely be rude;   not befriending a co-worker on a social network for any reason?   Certainly not.


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