Tip of the Day by Kim Komando
October 6, 2009
Q. What is the polite way to decline a Facebook friend request? People I knew in high school have been contacting me. I didn’t like these people 30 years ago. Now my ex wants to be my friend. We couldn’t be friends in real life. Why should we be friends in a virtual one? And what about the coworkers I can’t stand?
A. The mechanics of declining a friend request are simple. Deciding what’s polite is more complicated. But there’s no wrong way to do this. It just depends on your perspective.
But first, let’s talk Facebook functionality. To view your entire Facebook page, other users must be your friends. And you have control over who gets that designation. That’s one of the big perks of using Facebook. Only those you choose get access.
Anyone can send you a friend request. You can confirm or ignore it. But what happens when you click ignore? Do requesters get a rejection letter? Does Facebook reach out and destroy their hopes and dreams?
Nope. When you click Ignore, nothing happens. The request is simply removed from your inbox. The requester receives nothing.
Will requesters know they’ve been rejected? Probably. When you click Confirm, requesters are notified. If that notification never shows up, they can guess what happened. But, if necessary, you could say you haven’t made a decision. Or, just play stupid.
Some people feel uncomfortable clicking Ignore. Many social niceties are lost on the Web. You’re not face-to-face at an office party. You can’t make idle chitchat and then slip away. Clicking Ignore feels like yelling, “I don’t like you!” in someone’s face.
But should you really worry about this? Think about why you’re using Facebook. Some people use it as their Web presence. They want to be visible, to collect as many friends as possible. They add everyone they’ve ever met in any context.
Others use Facebook for personal communication. They post information for friends and family. They only add real friends. This sounds more like your style.
Don’t feel bad about using Facebook in your own way. If you’re a more personal user, letting in relative strangers defeats the purpose. You’ll feel the need to censor the things you post. That’s not fun. You’ll quickly lose interest in using your profile. And the friends and family you intended to connect with lose out.
The way you handle your ex is obvious. Hit Ignore. Do the same for those high school acquaintances. Chances are they were sending friend requests to everyone they ever knew. They’re not waiting for your reply with bated breath. In a few days, they won’t even remember sending it.
What about your coworkers? You have to see these people every day. Being polite to them really is a priority. However, I’d still ignore their requests. It may come up in conversation at work. Just let them know you use your profile for more personal relationships. They’ll understand.
There is another way, if you just can’t click that Ignore button. Facebook lets you group friends into multiple Friends Lists. And each group can have different privacy settings. You can keep a group from seeing specific parts of your profile.
Click Friends at the top of your home page. Then click All Friends from the left side navigation bar. Click Create New List. Give the list a name. Click on the friends that you want included in the list. Select Save List when you’re done.
You can separate friends into lists like Family, Friends and Coworkers. On your home page, click Settings>>Privacy Settings. Go to the Profile section.
Under the Basic tab, you’ll see various elements of your profile. These include Status, Personal Info, Photos, Wall Posts and more. Click Edit Custom Settings under any heading. This will open a field labeled “Except these people.” Add any Friend Lists you want to block. These people won’t see this portion of your profile.
So, theoretically you could add everyone as a friend. Then you’d exclude some from certain elements. That way your profile can be both all-inclusive and private. It’s possible. But to be honest, it’s a lot of extra work.
In the end, remember that Facebook is just a tool. It’s not a wholesale replacement for your social life. Try thinking about it like that. The Ignore button will look a lot less menacing.
May Your Glass Always Be Half Full
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