My SO's cousin wants to be Facebook friends with me. How can I kindly say no?
May 25, 2012 9:23 PM   Subscribe

One of my awesome boyfriend's distant relatives noticed that I'd liked a kind message she left for my SO on his wall, checked my page, saw that he and I were together and sent me a private message asking if we could be Facebook friends. As a general rule, I do not friend people I've not met in person. I've never been great at sugarcoating things; how can I politely and respectfully decline?
posted by oogenesis to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there a reason you won't friend her and just give her really restricted access to your information? That seems a lot easier and less stressful.
posted by verbyournouns at 9:24 PM on May 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

I have the same rule as you, but in this case, just accept her friend request and remove her a couple of months down the line if you feel so compelled.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 9:31 PM on May 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Alternately, just ignore it. This is what I do when random people (or casual acquaintances or work colleagues) friend me on facebook. The majority of them don't know how often I'm on facebook (not often); those that are on frequently likely send lots of friend requests, those that are on rarely may forget they've sent the friend request, and no one has ever called me on it. Then I'm not rejecting them...just not accepting their eternally pending request.

With the private message thing it is a little more awkward, but I would still just go ahead and ignore it with the caveat that I'd tell the awesome boyfriend about it just to make sure he knows in case random relative brings it up in the future.
posted by arnicae at 9:32 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Personally, I'd recommend the first option if I was in either your position or the cousin's position. I think it's very awkward to send a message and it's rude to ignore her friend request or delete her later on.

I'm assuming that you'll eventually meet her, so in a way this is doing things a bit backwards, but it's better than having her assume that you don't like her or coming across as rude.
posted by livinglearning at 9:50 PM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, this seems like it's time for an exception. Agree with livinglearning that you will (hopefully) meet her one day, so it's not the same as a total stranger. Also, by liking her comment, I think you inadvertently signaled to her that she could contact you, because you kind of contacted her first.
posted by mlle valentine at 10:04 PM on May 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: "I'm sorry, but I don't feel comfortable 'Friending' people on Facebook I don't know very well. We'll probably be friends in real life, soon enough!"... is what I always say.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:05 PM on May 25, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, I would definitely be hurt by someone's not accepting my friend request in this sort of situation. Even if you said something like IAmBroom, I personally would feel that you didn't like me, and wouldn't go out of my way to be friendly in the future.
posted by mlle valentine at 10:07 PM on May 25, 2012 [8 favorites]

What IAmBroom said would work. If that's your policy, it's your policy, and she'll warm up to you if you're even in a position to meet her in real life, I'm sure (at that point you should initiate the friending!)

Or just ignore. That works really well.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:29 PM on May 25, 2012

In this circumstance, assuming that you see a future with your SO, I think you just have to suck it up and accept the friend request. I understand your general rule (I don't accept friend requests from strangers either), but I think in this situation you should just suck it up and accept the request. Otherwise I think you'll come across as a little cold.

On the other hand, my husband is reading over my shoulder and insisting that it's fine if you hold to your principles and refuse the request. So there's that.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 10:32 PM on May 25, 2012

You're not giving her a kidney. Accept the Friend request and get on with your life. You don't know any of us commenting here.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:35 PM on May 25, 2012 [18 favorites]

And just another thought: my best friend and I currently live across the country from each other, and she started dating someone very seriously basically as soon as I moved away. So I heard all about this guy but had never actually met him. Finally after almost a year of them dating and hearing about him through her I added him as a friend on Facebook. If he had rejected me because of that policy of not friending people he didn't actually know in person, I would have been a little irritated since it was obvious that at some point we would meet each other in person, and I would have wondered what he was trying to hide and why he wouldn't just friend me.
posted by McPuppington the Third at 10:35 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Just make it about how you use Facebook, rather than anything personal. I generally keep to the same policy of only friending people I know in real life; this is a pretty common policy among my crowd (internet-savvy folks in their 30s and 40s who find it valuable to set limits and exercise some control over boundaries.)

I will say that a situation like you've described is an example of where I would likely be comfortable friending someone that I hadn't met in real life -- you engaged her, she reached out personally in response, this sounds like she's looking to make a friend (for reals, not just a "Facebook friend" friend.)
posted by desuetude at 10:46 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Now FB has a Restricted list. Apparently it can only see things that are public anyway. Ideal for this case.

I hear you, I really do. I like my privacy and I don't do a good job with casual acquaintances. But this is an (awesome) boyfriend. You don't want to be the New Girlfriend Who Takes Her Online Presence So Seriously That She Can't Even Be Polite. I am sure that's not the attitude you yourself have...but you never know what will come back to haunt you.
posted by skbw at 10:49 PM on May 25, 2012 [14 favorites]

Generally speaking, I'm inclined to agree that this might be the sort of thing you just suck up and accept. Restrict her access, etc. However, assuming you're smart and wise enough to make your own decisions, your question is "how can I politely and respectfully decline," and for me personally, the answer would be to pretend you never saw the message. Don't respond to it, and tell your boyfriend that if anyone asks, you never saw it. There may be direct, somewhat tactful ways to decline, but I think this is the most "polite and respectful" way. It's as if you're pretending not to have seen an acquaintance on the street who is trying to flag you down for a ten-minute catch-up. It's a white lie.
posted by cribcage at 11:20 PM on May 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you may be trapped in this one. You have only the choice of slightly offending awesome distant relative (by not replying... Any direct denial is going to go over even more poorly, no matter how you phrase it) - or to compromise on your Facebook rules.

To avoid this in the future, you should not like posts from people your SO is close to but who don't meet your Facebook friend criteria on your SO's wall.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:10 AM on May 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I just ignore friend requests I don't wish to accept. I think most Facebook users get that this is the way it works. Some people accept any and every "friend"; others are more selective.

If she pushes it you can always simply explain that you have this thing of only friending people you've met. It's perfectly reasonable.
posted by Decani at 1:16 AM on May 26, 2012

In that you don't really know her, I am thinking the message ended up in the "other" section of your inbox? In which case, most people actually *do* miss the messages there for a long time. You can also mark them unread. However, depending on how savvy the aunt is, she's quite likely to a) assume you know about the "other" inbox and think you are blanking her, oooor, b) not know about the "other" inbox, and think you are blanking her.

I too had a hardline stance, but it got kinda messy when a friend became a co-worker, and then I added another coworker that I considered a friend, and now I have to add any dumb coworker who sends a request. So now I use lists. I have for example Work-restricted and Work-unrestricted. The members of work-restricted are, together with older relatives and small children, treated to my limited profile, and I put up the occasional funny cat clip or whatever so they can also see. The people on my work-unrestricted list are generally cool, and know not to be all DUDE, I SAW THAT ON FACEBOOK! in front of colleagues. On the rare occasion that my fb groups clash IRL like that, I attribute it openly to my group usage "oh yeah, I posted that to all mah zombie-fan bros!" or if the person is like "I don't remember seeing that on fb?" I am like "oh?". Not my problem they didn't see it.
posted by Iteki at 2:55 AM on May 26, 2012

Oh, I've also, in the case of extended family members said "to be honest, I am pretty dorky and immature on facebook, I'd hate for you to have that as your only impression of me, I would love to stay in touch by mail tho".
posted by Iteki at 2:57 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: sent me a private message asking if we could be Facebook friends

This to me suggests she is giving you an out. She didn't just Friend Request you, she sent you a message first. I think she probably understands that it might be a little uncomfortable for you to be friends with your SO's family, so she is testing the water. Respond by thanking her for the offer, but explain your rule of only friending people you've met in person, and tell her that you look forward to meeting her someday soon.
posted by Rock Steady at 3:53 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Being facebook friends obligates you to nothing. Friend and ignore.
posted by gjc at 4:30 AM on May 26, 2012

If you were dating my cousin and "liked" something I posted on their wall and a more facebook-intensive version of me friended you, I'd be insulted that you didn't friend me back. You initiated the "contact," I think.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:53 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: what does your awesome boyfriend think? I'd ask for his opinion first
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:10 AM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You should do whatever you would do if your cousin who you don't actually know all that well sent you the same message. Reason being, if she's your SO's cousin now she might be your cousin in the future.
posted by anaelith at 6:15 AM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: I'd say something along the lines of what IAmBroom said. I don't think you should feel obligated to friend anyone online who you don't want to; we all know that it's not friendship anyway. Facebook's turned the word into a verb and it's made us all feel bound to these relationships in a way disproportionate to what we get out of them. There's probably a reason you don't want strangers looking at your profile. If you have a policy, stick to it.
posted by skilar at 6:19 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

"You are so sweet, and I really loved the kind message you left for [SO]. Believe it or not, I'm a little bit shy when it comes to Facebook. I would like to get to know you better, though! [SO] said that you first met at [x] and how much fun it was to [y]. Did you grow up to be an [astronaut] like you thought you would?"... or something else innocuous that references something (perhaps a less-distant relative) that he and she have in common, maybe a family recipe or in-joke or something. My prediction is that you'll exchange a few friendly emails then the correspondence will drift away, but she should come away with a positive impression of you and won't feel rebuffed.
posted by argonauta at 11:58 AM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could put it in terms of keeping your news feed manageable. Someone gave me that line recently and I thought it sounded plausible.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:00 PM on May 26, 2012

I have a list set up for this exact situation. It lets you be the 'good guy' and accept the friend request, but you don't have to let them post all the "BOYCOTT BUYING GAS TO SAVE THE BABIES!" crap to your wall.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 1:33 PM on May 26, 2012

Response by poster: OP here. Thanks for all your suggestions.

If I 'like' something my SO's cousin posted on my bf's wall (which is what happened) how is that initiating contact with her? The 'Like' button always seemed to me a pretty uninvolved way of approving of something someone has posted: 'I read your post. I thought it was funny/sweet/so true/whatever. However, I don't have time to comment further.' This is how I and most people I know use it.

@Rock Steady: This is essentially what I did, and I tried to be as friendly as possible.

@5_13_23_42_69_666: I told my bf about it, all prepared for a mild disagreement, and he was even more hardline about my stance than I was. :) ...Yeah, he's a keeper.
posted by oogenesis at 2:47 PM on May 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @IAmBroom: meant to credit you too. Thanks again, all.
posted by oogenesis at 3:07 PM on May 26, 2012

> If I 'like' something my SO's cousin posted on my bf's wall (which is what happened) how is that initiating contact with her? The 'Like' button always seemed to me a pretty uninvolved way of approving of something someone has posted: 'I read your post. I thought it was funny/sweet/so true/whatever. However, I don't have time to comment further.' This is how I and most people I know use it.

My standard metaphor for social networking sites is like being at a big virtual cocktail party. So, at this party, you're standing next to your boyfriend, but not exactly participating in the exchange between him and his relative. But then you nodded your head in assent with something that she said that you liked, and in return, she's shaking your hand and saying "oh, hi, I'm [name], nice to meet you."

It's an indirect form of contact, certainly -- you acknowledged her existence and she's acknowledging yours. Like I said, it's totally okay if this doesn't jibe with how you use Facebook.
posted by desuetude at 11:39 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

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