Facebook Friend Request Etiquette
May 4, 2014 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I returned to Facebook recently after having deactivated my account there for the past several years. I've noticed that some of the people I've friended since going back on there have not responded to my friend request, even though I know that they've been on the site since I sent it. What would be some reasons for this?

For various reasons, I deactivated my Facebook account right before my college graduation, which was several years ago. For various unrelated reasons, I came back recently. When I returned, I sent friend requests to most non-college people whom I've met and connected with over the past several years, as well as some people I went to school with but did not connect with until after graduation, whether it be through LinkedIn or alumni parties.

A lot has changed since I've last been on the site-- for example, liking things was a relatively new concept when I left-- and I guess Facebook etiquette has changed too. I noticed that a lot of the people that I've sent requests to responded within the hour. But there are quite a few that are still pending. Some of them are to people who I know are never on Facebook. But others I have seen on various Facebook groups that we belong to, or they've uploaded a photo, or something, but yet haven't responded to my friend request, and it still shows up as pending when I go to look at their profile. I know what a rejected friend request looks like, so I know that these are pending.

I'm puzzled about this. I know with me, I respond to friend requests right away-- I mean, they pop up in the page or in the app, so it's impossible to ignore. Do people let them pile up? Should I message some of the people I friended? What could be happening?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think some people delay responding so as not to appear over eager. Or they might genuinely just be busy and not feel like dealing with a friend request right away, even if they are participating in facebook daily.
posted by latkes at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

People let them pile up.

If they're a good friend of yours and you want them to accept your request for a practical reason -- like, you want to put them on a filter for semi-private posts or to be able to invite them to events -- then yeah, go ahead and ping them to see what's up.

Otherwise, don't read too much into it and just let it go unaddressed.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Some people let them pile up. Some people very strongly limit their facebook friend circle. Some people just might not want to be your FB friend.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

I almost always let a handful of friend requests stack up before I add them, mostly because I sift people into lists & it feels less cumbersome to do a bunch at once. so, sometimes it takes me a couple weeks or a month to respond. I'm an author though & I get quite a few requests from people I don't know in real life, so YMMV.
posted by changeling at 7:21 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I let them pile up. I don't think I've ever rejected a friend request, but I've got 15 or 20 sitting there that I haven't said yes to, and probably never will. I've also missed a notification once or twice and gone in who knows how much later (months?) to see that I never friended someone I meant to. I'm not a super active Facebook user, and I generally, but not exclusively, limit my Facebook friends to people I talk to or see regularly. But I also don't sweat it too much. Different people use Facebook differently, that's just how it goes.
posted by brainmouse at 7:22 PM on May 4, 2014

If I don't friend someone -- 99% of the time because I see no good reason to let this person in on whatever it is I share on Facebook -- I don't want to send any kind of signal to them. Like I'll see a friend request I have no mind to accept, acknowledge it was sent and that's as much I am willing to devote myself to the idea.
posted by griphus at 7:23 PM on May 4, 2014 [9 favorites]

Facebook is Wierd and the older your get the philosophy about who to friend changes. Co workers shouldn't mingle with the people you skipped school with in high school and know stories about terrible teenage angst stuff. Yes there are filters but I'd simply rather not manage it. I have a LinkedIn account for that.
For me Facebook is 100 percent for people I met before I was 20 with few exceptions.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:25 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you reject, the person can friend you again. So if you really don't want to be their friend, it's best to let it sit in limbo.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:26 PM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

What most often happens with me is: I see the request on my phone or my computer but for whatever reason can't respond right at that moment, or I want to think about it a little....and then I forget, because the little visual thing isn't there to remind me anymore. Then I get another friend request and that makes me remember the previous one - so, it's kind of like I let them stack up, but it's usually inadvertent.
posted by rtha at 7:30 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I see a friend request I'm not going to accept, I don't take any action on it whatsoever. I didn't even know you could reject a friend request. Once you ignore it once, it no longer shows up in your current notifications, so contrary to what you say they are extremely easy to ignore. I just went and scrolled down through my old notifications and there are 49 of them.

You ask: "What could be happening?" What's happening is that people are ignoring your friend requests. If you mean "Why is this happening?" it's impossible to tell, but for me, it doesn't mean I dislike the person, or don't know the person -- it just means that I tend to restrict my FB list to people I have a current active relationship with.

I would feel extremely uncomfortable if someone messaged me to say "I can see from your FB activity that you've been on the site, so why haven't you answered my friend request?" So I suggest you not do this.
posted by escabeche at 7:30 PM on May 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

I will also say that I think the initial novelty has worn off and people in general are more choosy about who they friend. Just because you can "reconnect" with every person you've ever met doesn't mean it ends up being edifying. I got tired of accepting requests from people I was never close with. I don't need 10,000 people I used to know silently watching my posts.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:31 PM on May 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

Just because you can "reconnect" with every person you've ever met doesn't mean it ends up being edifying.

Yeah, I very much agree with this. When I started, yeah, I friended everyone who I ever shared a class with. Now I regret doing that, not because I share anything particularly personal on Facebook, or that I assume they're even paying attention to me, but because these people feel like polite but uninvited guests at a party: I don't want them there, but I also don't want to deal with the etiquette drama of asking them to leave.
posted by griphus at 7:34 PM on May 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

As others have said, now that the novelty of Facebook has worn off, I'm way more choosy about which requests I send or accept. Additionally, I find that people who deactivate and reactivate their accounts tend to be more dramatic, and I don't want FB drama. I'm not accusing you of being dramatic, but I'm just saying that's a rule of thumb you might be falling victim to.
posted by Joh at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

I agree with TPS and griphus: the appeal of finding old acquaintances, and friending for the sake of having friends, has worn off. Years ago, when I was more active on Facebook, I was much more eager to friend people and to accept friend requests, because Facebook was the cool thing and having a good number of Facebook friends meant I was cool, or at least not uncool. These days, I'm far less interested in Facebook, both as a social tool and as a measure of popularity. About 5-10% of the people on my friends list are people I no longer share any meaningful connection with, and although there's no point in unfriending them now, I'm not sure I'd accept their requests today.

Are the people you're refriending people you'd feel comfortable reaching out to outside of Facebook, or are they just people you once knew and theoretically still get along with? I wouldn't be surprised by a lot of non-responses from the latter.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:56 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Another factor is that there's an awful lot of ways to participate on Facebook these days -- apps that post for you automatically, hitting share buttons on another site, group discussions you can subscribe to via email, etc -- that don't involve actually visiting Facebook. You may see people's activity being reflected on Facebook, but that's not actually a particularly solid indication that they're actually on Facebook itself.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:22 PM on May 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

I think that a lot of people are using Facebook less, or only in specific contexts. For example, I occasionally access it to respond to a message, or crosspost a pic from Instagram. But I log in specifically to do that thing (or, better, do it through a different app) and I do it, and then I log back out. I can't remember the last time I read my feed, or looked at...anything, really. I don't get notifications for anything except activity from my mom and people who're sending me whatever the Facebook version of memail is called. This question prompted me to go look at the rest of my Facebook stuff, and I have seven friend requests that've been sitting there for anything from a couple weeks to over a year. So it might not be personal--it might be that they just don't use Facebook a lot and didn't notice.
posted by MeghanC at 8:25 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have heaps of friend requests I haven't answered. Sorry, just because we went to the same high school doesn't mean I have any desire to be your "friend" now, over 20 years later. Sometimes I've had friend requests from people I don't even remember. With these, it's nothing personal. Just, our lives have moved in different directions. What do we really have in common anymore?

To throw a spanner in my own motivations, I do tend to friend family members, even distant relations I can't exactly remember how I'm related to. We probably have even less in common than the people I went to high school with but somehow I'm still interested.

There are some people who I used to know that I actively do not want to be friends with. And there are some people I have proactively gone in and blocked. And I am pretty cautious about which people I work with that I friend on FB.

Short answer: don't take it personally, people have different sensitivities about FB and different ways of using it. If you genuinely want to (re)connect with someone, send them a message.

PS: anyone feeling they have unwanted visitors on their friends list - you can unfriend people, really. FB is evil, but not yet to the stage where it sends the person you just unfriended a big email saying "Whoa, you must really suck because THIS PERSON you thought was your friend just unfriended you. SUCKS TO BE YOU."
posted by Athanassiel at 8:40 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

I wonder if there is any "Anonymous de-friended me way back when," (they think you did, when you deactivated) "so why should I be arsed to respond to hir friend request now? Screw that"...?
posted by kmennie at 8:54 PM on May 4, 2014 [4 favorites]

I wait until I'm on a full (i.e., laptop/desktop) web browser to respond to friend requests, as it's easier to put new FB friends on to lists from there, and I use lists extensively. So if you sent me a friend request and I saw it first on the mobile app, you might see me doing all sorts of other stuff on FB but not responding to your request until much later.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:22 PM on May 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I filter almost everything I put on Facebook, so sometimes I wait until I'm in front of my computer and have enough time to put the person on the right filters before I accept their request.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:36 PM on May 4, 2014

Most common reasons for ignoring a friend request would be that the person rarely uses facebook or doesn't want to add you but feels rude rejecting it- people use facebook in different ways and some people keep their circles very small. Don't read to much into it but definitely don't message them to ask why they haven't responded yet - that could come across as pushy and aggressive even if not meant in that way.
posted by emd3737 at 11:30 PM on May 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Just because you've sent a fb friend request does NOT mean THEY are required to do anything. They can ignore it, reject it, or accept it: their response is totally their choice, and they don't owe you any explanation.

Think of it like your front door: that door is normally closed, right? And just because someone knocks on it doesn't mean you're required to open it: you can look out an see who is there then choose to open, of course, but you can also see who is there then refuse to open, or you can decide to stay on your couch and completely ignore whoever is knocking.
posted by easily confused at 2:26 AM on May 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Reason why I do not accept fb friend requests:

1) The person's profile picture is something other than their face and I have no idea who they actually are.
2) The person's profile looks spammy, like it isn't them.
3) Their page is full of crap that I would not want to bother with on a daily basis.
4) I don't know the person well enough to allow them access to pictures of my children and the goings on of my daily life.
5) I just don't want to.
posted by myselfasme at 5:05 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't friend people who I work with (likewise I don't people I've never actually worked with to my Linkedin profile). I just like to keep business and personal separate that way, for me it makes for less drama in my real life.

I also don't friend people that I don't actually speak to IRL. So, not very many old classmates, or those very nice people from across the country that we met on vacation that time, etc etc.

People have all kinds of reasons, and I agree with what was said above, it depends on what they use Facebook for. You can't take it personal if you don't fit into their specific algorithm.
posted by vignettist at 5:48 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't accept friend requests from people I don't know or know, but aren't interested in.

Are you personally close to these people who have not accepted your friend requests? It could be that they're just not super-interested in reconnecting with someone from several years in their past.
posted by JimBJ9 at 6:02 AM on May 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Are these all people who you are in contact with semi-regularly? Is your profile picture your face? Has your name changed? Is your first name really common?

I'm of the age where seemingly 20% of females in my cohort are named Jennifer. I can't tell you how many times I've been friended by a baby/dog/cat face who's first name is Jennifer, and last name is a married name. Yeah, I have no idea who that person is and I'm not adding them.

And, as has been pointed out, friend request limbo has advantages to outright rejection.

If anything, yes the major shift in Facebook etiquette has been to only connect with people you actually want to keep in contact with. When I was in college, you'd regularly add everyone in your 30 person Lit. 101 class if you actually ever spoke to them or not.
posted by fontophilic at 6:12 AM on May 5, 2014 [5 favorites]

Oh, I so very much agree with fontophilic above.

Facebook came out after I'd already finished graduate school, so I've never really randomly added anyone, though I understand a lot of people used to. So adding people you know well may be a recent shift in general FB behavior, but it's not a shift for me.

Is your profile picture a picture of you? You should make sure it is. Here's why:

A lot of times, when on the receiving end of a friend request, I have no clue whatsoever who the person is. They have a baby/cat/dog face and a married last name (or, like me, they've changed their FB profile to use a fake last name to avoid being searchable under recent FB lack-of-privacy changes), yet I'd only know them by their maiden name and haven't talked to them since they got married, got a dog, or spawned offspring. I go to look at their profile to see who they are and how I might know them, and the only similarity I can see is that we went to the same high school at the same time. Great, even though I went to a tiny high school and my graduating class consisted of all of 120 kids, I still have no idea who this person is.

This is why I advocate very, VERY strongly that your FB profile picture should be a picture of YOU, and no one else. Not your spouse. Not your baby. Not your favorite pet. Not some cause like "change your profile picture to a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness." I guarantee I'd friend some people who requested me if I had any clue who they were from their profile picture.

Also, sometimes I do recognize the person, but I wasn't very close with them in college/high school/social activity/hobby/work/wherever we met. We may have said all of ten words to each other. I'm certainly not going to add that person.

Then there are the ex-girlfriends who I don't care to speak to and whose requests I therefore ignore (or, in one case, outright block).

Then there are my college friends, who, should they ever show up on FB, I'd add instantly because I miss them.

So, I wouldn't take it too personally. If it's someone you really want to stay in contact with, contact them some other way if possible and ask them if they saw your friend request. Other than that, don't push it.
posted by tckma at 7:20 AM on May 5, 2014 [3 favorites]

All of the reasons above but it's also entirely possible that some of them haven't even seen your friend request. A couple people I know have mentioned recently that they've had friend requests they didn't know about. There's a new update that moved some stuff around.
posted by betsybetsy at 8:31 AM on May 5, 2014

I put people in the "boneyard" which is what I call not answering one way or the other until I have a chance to go through every friend that they have and block any of those I don't want around....assuming I am interested. It can take me forever in FB time but so be it. I do not think anything requires me to make a snap decision.
posted by OhSusannah at 7:07 PM on May 5, 2014

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