Facebook Etiquette Question

Lynne Kiesling

I have a Facebook etiquette question to pose. Different people use Facebook differently. My rule is to use Facebook to keep in touch with people I know personally, and only very rarely do I make any exception to that rule. This leaves me with a dilemma when I get friend requests from people who are “friends of friends”, but who I have never met in “meatspace” (good to have a Neal Stephenson quote on a Friday morning!). I love meeting new people and making connections with others who share my interests, but I hesitate when it comes to approving friend requests for people I do not know personally. Consequently I have a pile of requests sitting in my inbox, and I feel like I’m in a quandry.

What do you do in this type of situation?

6 thoughts on “Facebook Etiquette Question

  1. I’m with you. LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. are for professional relationships. I limit FB solely to people who I have or would like to have a beer with – figuring the latter will both appreciate the occasional pictures of kids and dash of blue humor much more than the latter. As the line from Ghostbusters goes: don’t cross the streams.

    I figure that if other people don’t use FB that way, that’s fine – but I don’t feel any more guilt about not accepting their friend requests than I do about not inviting them in the first place.

  2. I have a few “friends of friends” on FB who I’ve never met, but limit these using more or less the criteria Sean mentions: “people who I have or would like to have a beer with.” I ask myself something like, “do I want to see vacation pictures and occasional inane chatter from this person? do I want to share my miscellaneous life commentary with them?” A clear “no” answer to either of these means I don’t accept.

    I’m much less discriminating on LinkedIn, though there I do have a residual “who are you and why do you think I’m interesting (and, more to the point, why should I think you are interesting)?” reaction to requests from people I don’t know.

  3. An observation and a couple of practical tips:

    First, use the network effects of the “wall” on Facebook to have these friends-of-friends and their networks to promote your ideas, blog posts and key links. If you put them on Facebook and these people want to see them, let them do the work of spreading the KP gospel for you.

    Tips: Every six month go through and purge people from your facebook list. It is like pruning shrubs at the end of the growing season. Don’t worry, don’t have guilt, just drop people who you don’t find interesting or who you think don’ have the requisite benefits through their network.

    Second, create a group in the privacy settings for these people. You don’t have to see them or their chatter unless they send you an email. And, they don’t have to see much at all of your information…in my Facebook settings I’ve labeled it “very limited access”.

    As a result of these tactics, I know everyone on my list from meatspace or from having done business together (i.e. worked on a paper together from afar) and I maximize the potential for others to spread my links etc.

  4. I have very few “friends” I’ve never met in person, but I do have a lot whom I’ve only met a couple of times and don’t know well. (A year or two ago, one of them walked up to me and said, “Hi, my name is Dan; we’re friends on facebook.” I knew both facts before he said them, but thought it interesting that he wouldn’t be sure of this.) I feel like I’m speaking for those of us who are less discriminating, then, when I say that I understand that other people don’t use it this way, and that I don’t take offense if a friend request to someone I don’t know well is denied. (I will typically only make a friend request to someone I don’t know terribly well if I see that they have many hundreds of friends already, which I take as an indicator that they aren’t picky. Accordingly, I’m not often in the situation of having friend requests denied. I suppose this raises the caveat that people who don’t follow this principle might be less understanding, but you have more right to deny them than they do to be accepted, anyway.)

  5. Because I use FB for a variety of purposes, but mostly Kent’s #1 above, I will normally approve a friend request from someone I don’t know “for real” as long as he/she and I have mutual friends, normally of a professional/political variety. Such people are good audiences for my work. If I eventually find them to be obnoxious, I will first block their feed and then de-friend them if need be.

  6. I don’t think that there is a right or wrong answer. It really just depends on your personal preference. A lot of it also depends on how you intend to use your Facebook account.

    I have friends that only accept people they know as friends. I also have friends that use Facebook for marketing purposes and will try to friend everyone they can to grow their list. It is really up to you.

    While searching for Facebook etiquette rules, I did come across a helpful website that others might enjoy as well. It is http://www.modern-manners-and-etiquette.com/facebook-etiquette.html

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