Am I "allowed" to ask about this?
July 25, 2017 4:06 PM   Subscribe

For the past few months my boyfriend has been hanging out with an old friend of his at our house a couple times a month. Normally I'm quite antisocial/introverted, but this guy is really friendly/considerate & made a lot of effort to drag me out of my shell. We have a lot in common & now I look forward to him coming over too.

Last week I sent a friend request on Facebook...and he denied my request. I'm not sure what to think, I'm 99.9% sure he isn't just being polite when we're hanging out. He seems to enjoy it as much as I do & will even come hang out with me/get involved if I'm cooking or doing something on my own. I don't think I offended him when we were hanging out last time, he was being very engaged the whole time.
If you can't tell, my social anxiety is kicking my butt right now. I don't usually find people I want to be friends with, so I guess it raises the importance of it in my mind. He's coming over again in a couple days & I don't know if I should ask about seems awfully awkward & confrontational to bring it up, but I really just don't want to waste my time & energy trying to befriend someone who doesn't want to be friends (to the extent that it's tempting to just avoid going home that night, but it seems stupid to do that over a potential misunderstanding...or something?).
posted by Eyelash to Human Relations (55 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
That is super fucking weird and you have this internet stranger's permission to ask about it. I certainly would.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:09 PM on July 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

"Hey how come you didn't accept my friend request on fscebook?"

Him: I only friend [whatever].

"Oh, ok. Well, want a beer?"
posted by headnsouth at 4:09 PM on July 25, 2017 [28 favorites]

Yeah, legit weird.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 4:10 PM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

Some people just don't use Facebook like this. If he's friendly in real life then that's what is real. He may well be keeping his Facebook profile for business use, or protecting his family from someone else, or wants to get to know some real people for a change, or a million other reasons.
posted by tillsbury at 4:10 PM on July 25, 2017 [29 favorites]

So, as a dude, I would be hesitant to accept a friend request from my friend's girlfriend too, for reasons of decorum, not because I didn't want to be friends. Perhaps he has a jealous girlfriend, or, as others suggest, has Facebook for a different purpose? Just ask him, it's fine :-)
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:14 PM on July 25, 2017 [84 favorites]

I am not in the habit of accepting most friend requests and if someone asked me why I didn't accept theirs I think that would be awkward as hell.
posted by Brittanie at 4:16 PM on July 25, 2017 [52 favorites]

I'm with Brittanie.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:17 PM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

I would let it go. He seems to be happy to be your actual friend. Call me crazy, but I think that's way more important than being a Facebook friend.
posted by Dolley at 4:22 PM on July 25, 2017 [15 favorites]

People use Facebook in a million different ways. I wouldn't think twice about asking a friendly person for clarification, especially since because I use it to get in touch with local people and invite them to stuff, I would like to get this new friend's best methods of contact so I could include them. But if that isn't how you use Facebook and you do just fine keeping in touch with him without it, dropping it seems fine too.
posted by Mizu at 4:24 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't accept friend requests—my facebook account exists solely to have access to my kids' pages (they are adults, know this and have no issues with it, and they are my "friends"). When I first signed up I had a couple of dozen requests from people I went to high school with. I wouldn't have found it awkward if anyone had asked me why, i.e., I simply would have explained as I have here.

So, another vote for just ask him.

(Btw, I eventually figured out how to be invisible.)
posted by she's not there at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with turbid dahlia. It is very likely that he doesn't want to seem like he's angling in on his buddy's girlfriend. Don't read too much into it.
posted by clone boulevard at 4:39 PM on July 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

Maybe he doesn't think it's appropriate to Facebook friend his friend's girlfriend? That's Pence-level weirdness about whether men and women are allowed to be friends, but who knows. That, or maybe he keeps his profile restricted to only close friends and family? I don't use Facebook much and I probably wouldn't approve you in this situation, but I'd also just let the request sit there pending forever rather than reject it, so I do find it odd, but it might not be worth asking about if you don't see him that often and he's friendly in person.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:41 PM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

The fact that such an action can be reasonably deemed both "super fucking weird" and so overwhelmingly normal that your asking about it would be considered "awkward as hell" is proof enough that we should all just give up and delete our Facebook accounts, but I digress... I think either option is valid (asking him vs not asking him; if he takes mortal offense that's on him) but I strongly encourage you to not alter your IRL behavior. People can be "social media incompatible" (i.e. different comfort levels in terms of privacy/sharing/connectedness) but perfectly cordial/friendly IRL.
posted by acidic at 4:50 PM on July 25, 2017 [18 favorites]

It would be super weird to ask why he denied the request. BUT i think you could say something like "Oh hey did I send a friend request to you on Facebook? I can't remember if I did or not". He could be like "Oh shit sorry I only use it for family/work" or something and then you'll have your answer.
posted by littlesq at 4:56 PM on July 25, 2017 [5 favorites]

Don't put him on the spot by asking him.
posted by AFABulous at 4:57 PM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

I am friends, in real life and on Facebook, with Jane.
Jane is married to Bob. I think Bob is a good guy and I used to be Facebook friends with him, but I unfriended him because…
Bob is Facebook friends with Derrick.

Before my girlfriend and I met, my girlfriend-to-be met Derrick through the internet and they had a casual thing going for a few weeks. Then my girlfriend-to-be did a little online checking and discovered that Derrick was very much a married man. Rather than confront Derrick about it (because women get murdered over that shit), my girlfriend-to-be ghosted. Since Derrick had never been to her apartment and did not know her real name, it was super-easy. Derrick still texts her now and then to try to hook up again, but she does not respond.

If I had stayed Facebook friends with Bob, there is a nonzero chance that Derrick would see my user pic, which has my girlfriend in it. From there, it would be pretty easy for him to figure out who she is. I didn’t want that to happen, so I unfriended Bob. I have not talked to Bob about it and I doubt that he’s noticed, but if he asked I’d give him a very general answer because, again, talking about stuff that could wreck a marriage could potentially put my girlfriend in danger.

It is entirely possible that the recipient of your request decided that they could not be your Facebook friend for reasons that have nothing to do with you, and they may not be in a position to share those reasons with you. In your position, I would probably ask, but I would also prepare myself to accept whatever answer was given, even if I thought that it was not entirely truthful.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 4:58 PM on July 25, 2017 [14 favorites]

Get your boyfriend to ask him about it.

If that's too awkward for you, that's sort of an answer.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 5:00 PM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

The only thing* I dislike more than getting FB friend requests from people I don't want to be FB friends with is then being asked IRL about why I didn't accept the request. Obviously I don't know this dude, but my take is that there's no good to come from pushing him on it. If he wanted to be your FB friend, he would have accepted.

* Exaggeration for dramatic effect
posted by primethyme at 5:05 PM on July 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

There's a chance that he is fine with being friendly with you in the presence of your boyfriend because it's all above boards, and that a Facebook connection felt too personal and seemed to exclude the boyfriend or go behind his back somehow. Not saying he needs to feel that way; it could just be an abundance of caution on his part to ensure that everything remains out in the open and there are no back channels of communication that could be construed as clandestine or flirtatious.
posted by delight at 5:06 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you know he denied your request? I'm being serious - I didn't realize people were notified about that. I'm in the "don't ask" camp. So you friend-requested him and he didn't accept - big deal. It seems like he's your actual friend, so who cares if he's your virtual one?
posted by lyssabee at 5:12 PM on July 25, 2017

Is it possible he didn't recognize your surname or profile photo?

If you don't ask him about it, it will just hang awkwardly in the air until enough time passes that you forget or let it go. If you are ok with that, then don't mention it.
posted by lieber hair at 5:13 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

I like the idea of telling your boyfriend about the situation and asking him what might be going on, but it would be totally fine and normal and good to just skip that and ask this person yourself.

In my opinion, this is the kind of issue where Metafilter leans antisocial/introverted relative to the median social media user. The split that you see among answers here would not be reflected in a wider userbase, and the odds that you would cause offense by asking after this request would be vanishingly slim.
posted by Kwine at 5:14 PM on July 25, 2017 [4 favorites]

The one thing I'd add: if you're going to ask him, do it in the presence of your boyfriend. Let him see that it's not something you feel weird bringing up with your boyfriend around. That'll keep it from being another source of future weirdness.
posted by roll truck roll at 5:31 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

It wouldn't offend me but it would squick me out and harm the existing friendship.
posted by ftm at 5:33 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don't ask him; it'll put him on the spot and make him defend his boundaries.

He's happy to spend time with you IRL; Facebook's not on offer, evidently. Accept it and move on.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:35 PM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

OP, if he shut the door in your face, or declined to shake hands with you, or to attend your party or whatever, he would probably offer a reason. "Sorry, I'm busy/sick/super tired/didn't see you" or whatever. Whether or not this reason was the truth, he would nevertheless offer it to fulfill his part of the tacitly understood social contract that keeps us all cordial in the "polite" world of real life.

Do you think that the social contract extends to the online realm? Some people don't. Some of those people are trolls, who harass folks behind a mask of anonymity when they'd never say those same awful things if face to face. Some OTHER of those people would never send a threat or nastygram or anything trollish, but they, like the trolls, think online and offline life are two separate playing fields. They would feel jarred and maybe offended if you asked them to account for their online behavior to you as though it were "real life," e.g. their decision to decline your Facebook friendship.

Do you believe that what happens online between people is somehow fundamentally disconnected from what happens between them in meatspace? If so, (your real feelings suggest otherwise, and) no, don't ask this guy about it.

That said, a real friend, or someone hoping for a real friendship, WOULD ask, I think.
posted by mylittlepoppet at 5:45 PM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

Asking would be very awkward and odds are that he would not tell you the real reason. If he's your bf's old friend, then he's possibly just trying to wait out seeing how long you'll be around.

More pressingly - tell your anxiety to fuck off. You did nothing wrong, there is not a problem, everything is fine. There are a thousand benign reasons why he could have rejected the FB request that still leave room for you to continue developing a friendship with this guy.
posted by skrozidile at 5:47 PM on July 25, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's already awkward because he refused your request with no explanation! It's like shaking hands. There are a ton of good reasons not to shake -- religion, virii, that avian bone syndrome Emily Watson had on 30 Rock -- but if you don't explain it and just rebuff the gesture of goodwill, you have to be prepared for people to be taken aback.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:53 PM on July 25, 2017 [3 favorites]

By you, I mean your friend-in-law. You yourself can either ask, even in a self-deprecating way ("I just want to make sure I haven't offended you," which gives him any number of opportunities for polite fictions, or to say oh shit, that was you?!) or in a blunt way. ("Y U NO FREND ME PALLY").
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 5:56 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you know he refused it?? Facebook doesn't send a notification. Am i missing something here?

It's quite possible he hasn't seen it.

Also, a reason he hasn't accepted could be thatyou're his friend's girlfriend and he's worried about being inappropriate. Maybe he even is attracted to you and wants you draw a line. Seema like you may be developing feelings for him too?

But again, my question remains- how do you know he refused your request?
posted by bearette at 6:01 PM on July 25, 2017 [8 favorites]

This must be a generational thing because I don't think it's a big deal, but I can tell from many of the responses that it is taboo. I have denied requests from IRL friends for a few reasons, but the big one is politics. If I'm not sure of a person's political leanings or even if they're ambivalent about politics, I will probably not friend them because I know my posts will annoy them. I know this isn't the "right" way to use Facebook, but it's how I use it right now. Maybe he has some topic he likes to post about that he just thinks you won't care about, maybe he prefers to keep his friend list super locked down, maybe he deleted it on accident, maybe he had a prior experience where he pissed off a friend's partner with obnoxious Facebook rants, maybe he has a secret crush on you and wants to keep his distance. It could be anything, but some people just don't use Facebook seriously or consider it a relationship necessity.
posted by areaperson at 6:01 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

That's Pence-level weirdness about whether men and women are allowed to be friends, but who knows.

The additional nuance with social media is that even if he doesn't have views like that about not being able to be friends with his friend's girlfriend, he might have reason to avoid this just because of what other people would think about it--or what he THINKS other people might think about it, including your boyfriend. Social media is ridiculously performative, which is ironically what makes guessing what people mean by their actions on social media kind of useless. You wind up in a weird state of everybody's social anxieties trying to play 12-dimensional chess with each other without anybody having agreed on the rules ahead of time.
posted by Sequence at 6:04 PM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

What's to gain from asking? Really? You're curious, I get it, but he's going to have some answer--which one(s) will satisfy you? Why not just assume that's the reason? I don't friend many people on FB, and I would not want someone to try to "confront" me about that fact--it's my business not yours and it is absolutely not analogous to "shutting the door in your face" or whatever bogus "social contract" (that's not what that means) is mentioned above.

Brittanie is right.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:10 PM on July 25, 2017 [6 favorites]

I would like to add my vote to the "don't ask him why, that's super awkward" pile. People use Facebook in very different ways, and I wouldn't necessarily want to be friends on Facebook with a friend's partner, even if I enjoyed their company, even if I also considered them a friend.

(I periodically remove people from my Facebook friend list, and once someone asked me why and was then sniffily offended when my answer was that I was limiting who could see pictures of my kids. So now I am just very selective with who I add so I don't have to deal with hurt feelings if I want to remove them later on - and I also make good use of "restricted" and "acquaintance" friend lists.)
posted by fever-trees at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you know he denied your request? I'm being serious - I didn't realize people were notified about that.

Facebook doesn't send you a notification about that, but you can figure it out. If you send a friend request, and then later go to the person's profile, you'll see one of three different things depending on what they did. If it says you're friends, they accepted your request. If they haven't responded, it'll say that your friend request is pending. If they've denied your request, you'll see the usual "Add Friend" button.

To the OP: Different people have very, very different approaches to Facebook. Some have an account but don't really use it at all. Some regularly use it, but only to keep in touch with a small group of especially close friends/family. Some use it as a total free-for-all, where they'll freely accept request from any acquaintance or even strangers, and they'll get into no-holds-barred debates about all sorts of issues. Others enjoy debating issues on Facebook, but are somewhat hesitant to add new friends because they've had awkward experiences in the past (e.g. what if a member of your family member gets into a heated argument about politics or religion with your coworker, and neither of them realizes the other's connection to you)?

If I were you, I'd assume he has nothing against you as a person, and that your real-life interactions are what matters, but he just has his own approach to FB that led him to denying your request for whatever reason. You don't need to know about that reason. Asking about it could create an awkward situation with your boyfriend's friend. Is that really worth it?
posted by John Cohen at 6:39 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

Imagine if the genders were flipped. So, imagine there is this guy, and his girlfriend has a female friend who visits the house every now and then. The female friend is super friendly in person. But when the guy tries to friend the female friend on Facebook, she ghosts/rejects the request.

I think nobody in this thread would be surprised why that happened? And it goes without saying the guy should NOT ask the female friend why she denied his FB request.
posted by karakumy at 8:05 PM on July 25, 2017 [7 favorites]

I think interpreting a rejected FB friend request as "doesn't want to be friends" is a giant leap, OP.

Personally, I wouldn't ask about it.
posted by sm1tten at 8:14 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

On reflection after reading other comments, I concur that it is probably better to not ask about it, and would like to amend my original comment accordingly. Just forget it, it's fine :-)
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:19 PM on July 25, 2017

Oh god, social media. Of course you can ask him but it has to be as a joke, like teasing or ribbing.
posted by benadryl at 8:40 PM on July 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

If the guy were so worried about appearing to hit on his friend's girlfriend, he wouldn't be coming over in his friend's absence.
I vote for "any number of reasons that have nothing to do with you" and "don't ask".
Maybe his facebook page is a boyzone?
Or family zone or job zone or weird hobby zone?
Is your boyfriend facebook friends with him?

As for "how do you know he declined your request": If he declines it, facebook will recommend him to you again for befriending. If he ignores your request you will just never get an answer and he won't show up as a recommended friend again.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:08 PM on July 25, 2017

I came to also ask how you know he refused it. Is it no longer in your "pending friend requests"? I get 5 - 10 FB friend requests a day. Mostly from bots. About once a month, I go through and see if there are any real people in the list as FB is actually pretty good at culling the bots.
posted by hworth at 12:49 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

That is super fucking weird

It's really not weird. People use FB in vastly different ways. Some people friend everyone they've ever met, some everyone they've ever been friends with, some people friend only people they're currently friends with, some people just closest friends and family, some only use FB for groups and stuff and hardly friend anyone. The bar for "I want to FB friend you" can vary wildly from person to person. Personally, I have actively unfriended/or denied requests from friends of my partner when I'm not really interested in their FB postings even if I'm very friendly with them in person. One person asked about it and it was awkward, because how do you tell them "I'm not interested in your thousands of holiday photos" without it sounding a bit rude? I've also unfriended or muted people who post loads of surveys, or news articles, or share memes, etc. Some people just curate their feed more heavily.

FB friend requests don't mean anything, if he's friendly in person that's the important thing.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:59 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

IRL friendships should trump electronic friendships. I used to have a Facebook account. Then I ignored it (and any requested friendships). Then I terminated it.

The POINT of sites like Facebook is to foster in real life friendships. If you already have it. . .then you don't NEED Facebook!
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 4:28 AM on July 26, 2017

I am on Team Don't Ask. There's just no way to ask that isn't awkward. Maybe in the future you can request again but for now, you need to just pretend it never happened.

How do you know he denied your request?

You can tell if you go to their profile and the "cancel friend request" isn't there -- if they haven't responded to the request, you have the option to cancel, but if the person denied the request it goes back to saying "add friend" again.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:10 AM on July 26, 2017

Omg just ask! I would rather know for sure then be so eaten up by imagining the horrors of why.
posted by katypickle at 6:53 AM on July 26, 2017

Imagine if the genders were flipped.

I've read this answer so many times, and still have no idea why flipping the genders would make the answer so obvious.
posted by roll truck roll at 8:34 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I agree with benadryl and I'm surprised no one else has suggested bringing it up as a joke. I would say something (when the context is right) like: Yeah we're such good friends that Paul here doesn't want to be associated with me on Facebook. And laugh! Just show that you think it's all a big joke, a funny, random inexplicable thing. Ha ha!

From the way you phrased this question, I'm getting a vibe that the conversation would be like, cringily earnest and deep and just the two of you alone and, yeah, that is a big flashing neon sign of NOPE.

But it's totally and completely possible to bring this up in a funny, random, one-off way, and then change the subject immediately so he doesn't even have time to reply. Or say something like, "Oh by the way, I sent you a friend request on Facebook, hope you don't think that's weird!" and just pretend you don't know he already rejected you. Or whatever. There are a million ways to bring this up without going into full heart to heart mode.
posted by stockpuppet at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also want to say, though, that this is not a great sign for the relationship (I totally disagree that this is "nothing at all and super normal") and I agree that pulling back emotionally a bit (sounds like you're getting pretty attached) is a good idea to protect yourself. Perhaps this guy just has a lot more friends than you and isn't feeling that your connection is as rare and special.
posted by stockpuppet at 9:11 AM on July 26, 2017

He had a choice to either leave the friend request as pending, which would have been fine and not been worthy of enquiry BUT by choosing to reject the friend request, he's made a visible stance on it.
If he has some specific boundaries around how he uses FB, and enforces them in a way that's visible to people in his real life, I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that he explains them to his IRL social circle. So not so much that he *owes* you an explanation, but if he really does want to be friends IRL he should be willing to provide one (not saying it has to be true, if his reasons are to protect something intensely personal and he doesn't want to share them).
Maybe your boyfriend could subtly probe on this for you if you don't feel comfortable addressing it directly?
posted by dotparker at 9:18 AM on July 26, 2017

You're allowed to ask but I think it'd be better to not care. There's a really high probability you'll get an unsatisfactory or untrue answer.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:07 AM on July 26, 2017

If I were you I'd ask your boyfriend to ask, as nonchalantly as he's able to do so.
posted by hazyjane at 11:32 AM on July 26, 2017

A few years back, I had a friend ask me in person why I'd Facebook unfriended him. The thing is, I hadn't, I'm 100% sure of it. So I know that glitches do happen. Ever since then, I've adopted the ego-protecting strategy of assuming that every unaccepted friend request and every unfriending is a technical malfunction, not a reflection of that person's opinion of me. I suggest you do the same.
posted by storminator7 at 2:01 PM on July 26, 2017

Don't ask.

...unless, at some point in the future, the topic of social media comes up and you're all just sitting around shooting the shit, then you could go, "by the way, how come we're not friends on Facebook?" in a casual way. That's happened to me before, and if I've genuinely not seen the request, I'll do it then and there; if not, I'll just say something like, "oh, I don't really use Facebook that much, plus I like in-person friendships way better!"

There's a high likelihood he didn't want to step over a personal boundary with a buddy's girlfriend. To be honest, even though I'm friends with many of my boyfriend's closest friends, I've never befriended them on social media. Things could get awkward if we broke up, etc.
posted by Everydayville at 2:56 PM on July 26, 2017

Thanks so much for all the responses and perspectives! I've decided not to ask, hearing that there are plausible explanations that have nothing to do with me personally made me feel a lot better. If there's one thing Metafilter has taught me it's how to have better boundaries, so I don't want to push back on his or make him uncomfortable over something that doesn't have to be a big deal.
posted by Eyelash at 8:00 PM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I agree with benadryl and I'm surprised no one else has suggested bringing it up as a joke. I would say something (when the context is right) like: Yeah we're such good friends that Paul here doesn't want to be associated with me on Facebook. And laugh! Just show that you think it's all a big joke, a funny, random inexplicable thing. Ha ha!

This is totally passive-aggressive, and I don't recommend it.

ON EDIT: Good resolution.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:03 PM on July 26, 2017 [6 favorites]

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