Should I Facebook friend my high school bully?
January 1, 2008 8:32 PM   Subscribe

My high school bully Facebook-friended me. Do I accept?

My bully was pretty mean - she alternatively beat me up and pretended to be my friend. (Girls do this, I suppose.) Haven't seen her in 10 years. I've moved on, gotten a PhD, become successful, etc. She, according to Facebook, has been in the Navy, married, had 2 kids, and found Jesus big time. I am NOT her friend. Do I accept her Facebook friendship to rub her nose in my "success"? Also, the other 12 people from my high school graduating class of 120 (it wasn't a very good high school) are already friends with her on Facebook and may notice that I didn't "friend" her and may say something.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (64 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Jeez, who the hell cares? She's not your friend, so don't "Facebook friend" her. Life's too short to even think about things like this.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 8:38 PM on January 1, 2008 [14 favorites]

You've moved on, become a better person than you were 10 years ago, and the only good that could come from becoming her friend on Facebook is to open those wounds again. Your sanity is worth more than that.
posted by icebourg at 8:39 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

ignore her and move on, it's easier than you think!
posted by Salvatorparadise at 8:39 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

God, no. The best part about being a grownup is you don't have to be friends with anyone. And don't worry about those 12 other people. If they say anything about who you friend or don't friend on Facebook, then they are in serious need of hobbies. Leave high school drama in high school.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 8:41 PM on January 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

Don't bother. And who cares what those other 12 people think? That's not your concern.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:41 PM on January 1, 2008

I don't suspect it really matters either way. It is really common to friend people who aren't really your friends. However, you certainly have no obligation to friend her.

One annoying thing I've discovered about various social sites is that people from your past will all of a sudden start bugging you. I personally find this bothersome, so I try to only friend actual friends and ignore everyone else. I would just ignore her.
posted by mto at 8:41 PM on January 1, 2008

posted by zippy at 8:42 PM on January 1, 2008

Are you someone that cares about the number of Facebook friends that you have? If you do, accept her invite but consider limiting what info she can see in your profile by placing her in your Limited Profile list (under Privacy settings).

But yeah, I agree with Dee Xtrovert. Life is too short and if you spend more than an hour "worrying" about this, just decline and move on.
posted by Diskeater at 8:43 PM on January 1, 2008

Is this seriously what you're spending your day worrying about? Fuck her, deny it, go watch TV.
posted by Roman Graves at 8:45 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Tweak your privacy settings as needed and ignore the request. You don't need to worry about high school anymore - you've moved on, remember?
posted by cobaltnine at 8:45 PM on January 1, 2008

It was a long time ago. Lot's of people I was afraid of when young actually turned out to be pretty nice people. When you are young, you just see the surface stuff - you never consider that there are reasons people act that way. So later, when you meet these people again, you suddenly discover that they are nice people who were going through a rough spot.

So just accept the friendship, you may be surprised at the person she has become.
posted by markovich at 8:46 PM on January 1, 2008

Hell no.
posted by Scoo at 8:46 PM on January 1, 2008

posted by lemuria at 8:46 PM on January 1, 2008

Having "found Jesus," she may consider herself a different person now, and may even feel guilty about how she treated you. This may be her attempt to make amends. But a true attempt would involve a phone call or email apologizing. Even then, you are not her friend.

Or, like many bullies, she could have no recollection of even having done anything wrong.

But, no, why bother? Many people on MySpaceBook like to collect friends, thinking that having more on your list makes you more important. Like favorites on MeFi. Except it's true for favorites.
posted by The Deej at 8:48 PM on January 1, 2008 [3 favorites]

So, she sent you a friend request. No email saying hi, offering some reconciliation, anything? Sounds like a facebook friends whore.

Ignore it.

Move on.
posted by munchingzombie at 8:49 PM on January 1, 2008

posted by pompomtom at 8:50 PM on January 1, 2008

Are you kidding? No! And the only reason you would "friend" her is to rub her nose in it? No! If your "friends" ask what the problem is, either tell the truth, or ignore the question. Telling the truth could open up a whole can of worms drama-style*, so I suggest you just don't talk about it. Frankly I'm surprised by your question.

I also suggest that, if you haven't already, you strictly set your account permissions so only those people you want as friends have access.

* I'm thinking particularly of her finding religion and perhaps she wants some kind of dialogue to apologise. Personally I wouldn't want to put myself in that situation.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 8:50 PM on January 1, 2008

If you want to rub her nose in something, say no.
posted by clh at 8:52 PM on January 1, 2008

You could always friend her now and unfriend her in a few months, if you don't want to be friends with her. I once cut about 100 non-friend "friends" from my Facebook, and to this date, only 3 of them have added me back.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:52 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

God, grow a spine. You're not in high school, she's not going to come to your house and beat you up if you decline.
posted by parmanparman at 8:52 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do I accept her Facebook friendship to rub her nose in my "success"?

Ugh. Just ugh. Did people just skip over this part?
posted by smackfu at 8:55 PM on January 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

No, smackfu, it's just this part was more glaring:

"Also, the other 12 people from my high school graduating class of 120 (it wasn't a very good high school) are already friends with her on Facebook and may notice that I didn't "friend" her and may say something."
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:00 PM on January 1, 2008

Reject that bitch!
posted by falconred at 9:15 PM on January 1, 2008

Anonymous has rubbed success in the nose of XXX.
posted by xo at 9:20 PM on January 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

No, and you should leave facebook. If facebook takes that much effort for you, then it is definitely not a "social utility" and you should drop it. They're making money from your eyeballs on their site. Don't give them your eyeballs.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 9:23 PM on January 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

Why not? Do you have all of the friends you could possible want or need. Maybe it would be an adventure. You just don't you? Maybe you would be very happy that you didn't just "reject that bitch". I know that I am a different person than I was in high school. Maybe she is too. Are you? WTF
posted by snowjoe at 9:23 PM on January 1, 2008

[IB's wife]

A story.

When I was thirteen, a girl at my school came up to me an hour or so after school one day and pounded the everloving crap out of me. In fact, she hurt me so badly that she then left me unconscious in a snowbank. If I hadn't been found by the principal, odds are, I would have had some major issues with hypothermia.

I pressed charges, which just made her angrier. She made threats. I was scared. Nothing came of them.

Fast forward eight years. I was working in a pretty decent job, and one of my co-workers brought a friend in for a little while to show them our office. The friend stayed for about five minutes and BOLTED very suddenly. My co-worker came back in a few minutes later.

"Hey. Um, did you know my friend that came in?" she asked me.

"Huh? Me? No, don't think so."

"Are you completely sure?"


"Ummm...did you ever get beaten up in ninth grade and left in the snow?"

"Yes...wait. Really? That's her?"

"Oh God. You're mad at her now, right? I shouldn't have told you. She freaked out and left. She says you're taller and bigger than her now and she was scared to death you'd want revenge."


In the end, I took my bully out to lunch. I bought us cheesesteaks. It was one of the most cathartic experiences of my life. I finally found out why she'd been such a horrifyingly mean bitch (she had been put into "special" classes and had heard I'd been skipped a grade -- while she was getting beaten at home for not getting good enough grades). We commisserated and laughed and swapped jokes. She was a person. I was a person. We didn't need to let our high school relationship define us.

I think facebook et al. are making it a lot easier for people to perpetuate the high school and junior high pecking order long into adulthood. "It's complicated" as a relationship status? "Friending" and "defriending" people? Giving little gifts and favors? Seriously. Why do people want that sort of drama to continue indefinitely?

It doesn't sound like you have much in common with your bully any more, but it frankly sounds like you're still a little scared of her. So I guess my answer is: don't friend her on facebook. But invite her to lunch. There's a lot more opportunity for closure and less opportunity for backstabbing. There's even a chance she wanted to apologize. I recently was IMed by a high school crush of mine who'd always treated me like crap -- he wanted to apologize for being such a jerk. Keep in mind that even though the "finding Jesus" stuff may have made her less likely to travel in your social circles, it may make it so that she wants to make good on things she's done in her life that make her ashamed or embarrassed. If you're really still freaked out and the very idea of going to lunch with her makes you fearful, don't do it. But otherwise, consider it. You may be surprised how grown up it makes you feel to realize that you're very, very far from high school now.
posted by InnocentBystander at 9:25 PM on January 1, 2008 [38 favorites]

The best revenge, we'll all agree, is living well. However while it would be good to bury the hatchet, in this case what is the point? It's such a zero-sum exercise. If she's a friend whore she'll likely never even get in touch with you, and just use you as a +1 on her existence sort of thing.
posted by oxford blue at 9:38 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

InnocentBystander, that's a great story, and I think you're awesome for doing what you did.

I found someone I wronged on Facebook this year and was finally able to make a long overdue apology. It was painful to write, and extremely painful to wait for the reply that told me that things were fine, and that the apology was nice but not necessary. I would never have just tried to friend this person. It would have been both deeply insulting and breathtakingly trivial.

anonymous, if you really want to understand this woman, reach out as InnocentBystander did. But if you're still so hurt by the experience that you're considering her friending her to avoid looking uncool in front of 12 people, or for petty revenge, you're probably better off ignoring her. You're not ready to deal with this like an adult.

If she gets the guts to actually write to you with an apology, I'd suggest reading it and offering whatever sincere reply you can muster. You don't have to be ridiculously nice, just fair and honest.
posted by maudlin at 9:45 PM on January 1, 2008

(Whoops -- IB's wife is the awesome one, although I'm sure IB has depths of awesomeness as well.)
posted by maudlin at 9:47 PM on January 1, 2008

Who cares what people you went to high school with, think?
posted by mrbill at 9:49 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

I find that I get added by a lot of people on Facebook because they just add everyone in their gmail address book. For some people, I'm in their gmail because I've banned them from MetaFilter or something. Hilarious email exchanges ensue. I've had people who I am considering suing in small claims court add me on Facebook, it's just crazytown sometimes who adds you. I think generally whether you want to add them or not is up to you but just make your peace with your decision.

- add her and decide to let bygones be bygones and if for some reason she's still a terrible person (unlikely, but possible) unfriend her. Nothing bad will happen to you
- Don't friend her. Someone says something to you about it. Say you didn't want to for blah blah blah reason, or say nothing at all. Nothing bad will happen to you.

See, it's a win win. You're an adult person (assuming you stop with the "rub her nose in it" talk) and Facebook is like a made up online-land. Anything you will do will be correct. Enjoy.
posted by jessamyn at 9:50 PM on January 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

One thing to add, and I am surprised nobody's said it yet is that her coming to Jesus might mean that she wants you and everyone else to come to Jesus and will not rest until you all do. Should you ignore everyone's advice, you might want to prepare yourself for that.
posted by xetere at 10:00 PM on January 1, 2008

Go watch Grosse Point Blank.
posted by boo_radley at 10:21 PM on January 1, 2008

Isn't it funny how people feel Facebook is like everyone's died and gone to heaven and now everybody you ever knew is your friend? The woman for whom an old boyfriend dropped me cold sent me a friend request: she was never my friend before the incident and she certainly has not become my friend in the intervening time (during which I never set eyes on her): what are people thinking??
posted by zadcat at 10:31 PM on January 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

God, no.

And Facebook won't notify her if you deny her request.
posted by moonlet at 10:57 PM on January 1, 2008

I agree with most ppl saying hell no. Don't worry about it, plus if she even notices that you didn't "friend" her, she may try again (I've had that happen a couple of times) and they may message and ask why, or they may realize that you don't want them around or even give a crap about them. So either way it'll snub them somehow.
posted by uncballzer at 11:14 PM on January 1, 2008

I am NOT her friend.

Why would being Facebook friends be any different?
posted by BenzeneChile at 11:18 PM on January 1, 2008

*Erm, Why would NOT being Facebook friends be any different?
posted by BenzeneChile at 11:19 PM on January 1, 2008

If you're curious about why she wants to be her friend, you could always send her a message via Facebook and ask her why she wants to be friends. It may be that she's added everyone from your high school without thinking about your past. It may be an attempt to make amends. Only she can tell you what she's thinking.

(Just check your privacy settings first and make sure that people to whom you send messages don't have access to parts of your profile that you don't want her to be able to see.)
posted by decathecting at 11:27 PM on January 1, 2008

My dear deceased grandfather had a saying I think of often: The more stir up shit, the more it stinks.

Leave it be. I wouldn't email and ask anything, or even stir it up in your mind. Just let it die.
posted by The Deej at 11:44 PM on January 1, 2008 [2 favorites]

No. I've ignored a couple of facebook friend requests, from ex-co-workers I despise. They are part of a large group of ex-co-workers from the same company, and its possible (but extremely unlikely) that someone else has noticed that I didn't friend them. Nothing bad happened. I just didn't want to associate with them, so I ignored the request. I think you are overly worrying about the other high school people. Its unlikely they will notice you haven't friended her (unless they really have way too much time on their hands to go through friend lists and compare), and even if they do, they may assume she never invited you.
posted by Joh at 11:47 PM on January 1, 2008

the other 12 people from my high school graduating class of 120 (it wasn't a very good high school) are already friends with her on Facebook and may notice that I didn't "friend" her and may say something.

No, they won't. Don't friend people you don't like.

I once cut about 100 non-friend "friends" from my Facebook, and to this date, only 3 of them have added me back.

That doesn't mean they didn't notice. The last time someone unfriended me and I noticed, I certainly didn't re-add them. I was slightly miffed that someone who I see almost every week would do this though.
posted by grouse at 11:51 PM on January 1, 2008 [1 favorite]

Quit Facebook.
posted by limon at 11:58 PM on January 1, 2008 [4 favorites]

This is further proof that Facebook is just an extension of high school. Just say no. Or yes. Absolutely no one cares because a Facebook "friend" isn't a friend.
posted by chairface at 12:11 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

The idea that saying "yes" will stir up shit/open old wounds misses the point. Shit's already been stirred by the bully showing back up in the OPs life (albeit in a half-assed, social network kinda way). The simple thing to do is "friend and forget"—it's the path that is the least contentious. By not friending, the OP risks the possibility of further, future shit (like, flying-car shit, maybe).

Friending, on the other hand, will not achieve what you want—rub her nose in [your] "success." The fact that you're thinking along those lines suggests that you still harbor deep resentment for the bully's crimes.

I think the best course of action is "forgive and friend." Leave the door open to further contact. Maybe her friending you is her way of knocking on your door, checking to see if you'll let her in after you see her on the porch. And if you decide that you want to ask her why she friended you, it's far more gracious to do that after you've let her in. If she fails to rise to the occasion, kick her out. And if she just sits there on your friend list for a while, what's the harm?

I find the experience of clicking "accept" for people from my past to be somewhat freeing. People who used to be threatening or weird or just too hot to talk to now want to compare their taste in movies with mine and probably end up reading the weird shit I put in my status update. Suddenly, they're just other people and my past loses a little bit of power over my present.
posted by wemayfreeze at 12:30 AM on January 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

No. She's not your friend.
posted by ComfySofa at 2:57 AM on January 2, 2008

This is very similar to the other askmes about a bully emailing them asking for an apology. Just dont do it. From what Ive learned it seems that this is just a another stage of their dysfunctional personalities. In the end it isnt about mending or anything its more about them. Its more about their drama. Its ultimately a very selfish act. The best and most humane thing to do is just cut them off. Doubly so for the jesus freak scene.

Its possible to forgive and forget without having to deal with them on your favorite social networking site. You dont need some awkward exchange with the potential for crazy to do this.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:03 AM on January 2, 2008

This kind of thing is exactly why I think Facebook and Myspace and Orkut and all those other "social networking" sites are crap and why I will never never never have an account on one. Facebook pecking order? Seriously? Who needs this?

Listen to limon.

If you want to keep in touch online with friends, well, that's what email and IM are for.
posted by flabdablet at 3:58 AM on January 2, 2008

Why has there suddenly been this flurry of facebook friend requests? I've had three in the past three days, which is a lot for me?
posted by Estragon at 4:52 AM on January 2, 2008

I'd like to add to the reasons of NOT adding her that you won't be "rubbing her nose in [your] success." She's not thinking about what kind of awesome person you've become. You're just "oh, that girl I knew in high school." She's not thinking about you enough to think "oh gee, I see that [anonymous] has so many wonderful accomplishments! Don't I feel foolish!"

I promise you. She's not.

You won't be rubbing her nose in anything. You add her, she'll look at your profile once with a cursory glance and that'll be it.

We always like to think that because we are the center of our own lives that everyone else finds us just as fascinating, but 99% of the time, it's just not true.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:54 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

No, let the past stay in the past.
posted by arcticseal at 4:55 AM on January 2, 2008

I am NOT her friend

I guess you answered it yourself then:)

Do I accept her Facebook friendship to rub her nose in my "success"?

Nah, I'm glad you're a PhD now, and have moved on, but don't let this incident take you back to those days.
posted by hadjiboy at 5:09 AM on January 2, 2008

I've never used Facebook but just adding you to a list seems to me to be a pretty innocuous thing to do. If she contacts you directly, then you can ignore her, unload on her, forgive her, or whatever else you decide to do.
posted by davcoo at 6:03 AM on January 2, 2008

Huh, can I be a contrarian and say yes? Making Facebook friends with people from high school lets you see their friends, which may lead you to discover an actual friend about whom you've forgotten.

I'm not sure how you rub other people's noses in your success. Is that a new Superpoke feature?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:49 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

One thing I don't think anyone's really touched on: if you friend her, you're going to see whatever updates from her whenever you log in. I have an ex-boyfriend on Facebook who is constantly updating his status to "Ex-Boyfriend is happy after a wonderful romantic dinner with his beautiful wife" and "Ex-Boyfriend is tired after a trip to meet his beautiful wife's fabulous parents" and "Ex-Boyfriend is OMG LOOK AT ME AND MY AWESOME RELATIONSHIP." I no longer want to punch him in the kidneys at the mention of him, but my eye twitches a little every time I see that crap.

In the end, it's not really a matter of whether you want to make nice or not; it's a matter of whether you think you can stand seeing all her Facebook activity and being reminded of her whenever you log in. If you can't, I'd recommend ignoring the friend request and going the email route. That way you can reconcile and forget about her.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:03 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you still resent this person. Ten years is a long time for people who were immature in high school the opportunity to actually grow up. Sure, there are the adults who still act petty -and facebook may help propogate those relationships- but from my experience, high school bullies are no longer in high school and no longer bullies. Navy? Kids? Those are things I'd be proud of, so you could attempt to run my nose in your success all you want. But since it's not high school any more, I doubt she'd care. Just the opposite: most likely she's proud of your successes already.

I'd take IB's wife's advice. My mindset is so far removed from high school nowadays, but running into people from the past -even people I despised once long ago- is amazing. You don't have to be this person's friend, but I'd recommend finding out who this person is as the woman she became.
posted by yeti at 7:04 AM on January 2, 2008

No. I understand the "facebook-friending" of everyone you went to high school with; in fact i'm guilty of some of this as well. But for me, it wasn't anyone I specifically disliked, and I pretty much said 'sure, what does it hurt?' even though I didn't even really consider them friends back then, and sure as hell don't know. It seems common practice to add as a "friend" every name you recognize. Why, I don't know. Some people get off knowing they have 325 'friends'. Whatever, I could care less.

But if it was someone who bullied or otherwise made my life any more difficult than it already was, you can be damn sure i'd hit the 'ignore' button. (BTW, they never really know you hit the ignore button; it's not like they get a big message saying "ANON Y. MOUS has DECLINED your friend request". Instead, they may eventually notice that you're not on their friend list, but thats about it.) Facebook just isn't worth any sort of grief - it's *NOT* high school. It's a good way to catch up with old acquaintances or people you're curious about, and might even open the door for communication with somebody you once knew who's also now in your industry or something, but that's about it.
posted by cgg at 7:35 AM on January 2, 2008

Oops -- don't know == don't now, although the as-typed meaning fits as well.
posted by cgg at 7:38 AM on January 2, 2008

That doesn't mean they didn't notice. The last time someone unfriended me and I noticed, I certainly didn't re-add them. I was slightly miffed that someone who I see almost every week would do this though.

Yes, but they aren't my friends in any normal sense of the word, so I don't care.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:12 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know, you can always take her OFF the friends list later...I guess I'd friend her and here is why: I too had a person like this in my life as a young person. We did reconnect years later-she looked me up-and we had some really edifying talks. She was not the same person...and she gave me the background to what was going on in her head and her life at the time, which frankly brought a lot of healing to ME. I was able to do the same for her, I think.

It's worth a shot.
posted by konolia at 8:39 AM on January 2, 2008

I got added as a friend on MySpace by the kid who broke my nose in 7th grade. I reciprocated, and that let other people who'd known us both back in school find me. Might it have happened anyway? Maybe. Did it cost me anything to do it? No.

It's not a big deal, I'd say go for it. At the very least, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that you're the magnanimous one.
posted by anildash at 8:50 AM on January 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

The great crime of the Facebook age is that we are forced into contact with people who, in a different age, we would have left behind permanently.

Here are the questions you need to ask yourself :

"Will forgiving this person make me feel better? Do I need to friend this person in order to forgive them?"
"Do I really want to be in contact with this person again?"
"Will friending this person make them feel better about themselves? Do I want to make them feel better about themselves?"

If the answer to these questions is "no," then I would say go ahead and deny them. Be sure to send a personal message stating why you don't wish to friend them. Sometimes people need to know that they used to be shitheads.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:56 AM on January 2, 2008

The great crime of the Facebook age is that we are forced into contact with people who, in a different age, we would have left behind permanently

Huh. Not that I use Facebook, but I would've thought one of its benefits would be that you come into contact with people who, in a different age, you would've ended up never hearing from again. And in some cases, that includes making amends and healing old wounds. Who knows, maybe you'll both feel better and grateful in the end.

I don't think there's anything to lose by adding her. It's not like she'll hunt you down and beat you up again. People do a lot of things in their youth that they look back on and regret, and I'm sure her joining the military and raising a family would've made her mature significantly since those school days. Give it a shot, and in the unlikely event she hasn't changed, don't dwell on it, and just take solace in the fact that your own life is going well.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:11 PM on January 4, 2008

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