I feel like a complete jerk when people Facebook friend request me and I don’t want to accept. This happens in both my personal and professional life. Sometimes acquaintances will want to be friends. Or at work, sometimes colleagues or even interns will friend request me. I don’t want to be a jerk, but I try to keep my Facebook friend list to close friends and family.
Do I just ignore the requests? Is it kinder to explain it to every single person or to just not accept? This has happened to me a few times and it never bothered me, I figure the person does something similar and I didn’t make the cut. I know that someone else might feel differently. Basically, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings or make this anymore awkward than it is already going to be. I should add, the only easy one is when it is an intern and I explain to them that professionally it is important for us to keep certain boundaries because I am their supervisor. That doesn’t apply to colleagues though, if that makes sense.
Ugh, I understand completely. I think this feeling might stem from the fact that some people use Facebook as more of a contact management tool (which is totally fine) than a way to stay closely connected to dear friends and family (which is equally fine).
(Sidebar: you don’t have 1200 friends. I’m sorry, but you don’t. You may know of or have met 1200 people, but if you can tell me something personal about each of those people, I will eat my hat.)
Because some people have a “come one, come all” policy with their Facebook friends list, I think the rest of us can feel compelled to accept every request that comes along.
But we don’t have to do that! Who we choose to view our social media presence is wholly up to each of us. If someone wants to accept every request because Facebook is their LinkedIn? They should go for it. But they also need to recognize that some people may only be interested in sharing life details with people close to them.
With this in mind, I’ve got two bits of advice here – one for you, and one people sending friend requests to colleagues.
If you are sending a friend request to a colleague, I suggest following it up with a real quick message (via Facebook) saying “Not sure if you limit your friend list to people you are friends with outside of work. If so, I totally understand.” That way you’ve broken the awkwardness and given them an out.
You also have to understand that they may choose not to accept your request, but might accept friend requests from other colleagues. You need to be okay with either outcome before sending the request; if you are going to experience more than a passing ‘ah, bummer’ if your request is denied, just don’t send it.
For those sending requests, I think that it is not a jerk move to ignore friend requests from colleagues. However, I would default to sending a quick note after you decline.
Then again I’m not receiving multiple requests a day. If you work in an office with a ton of people and find yourself with a dozen or more requests at a time, then I think it’s fine to just not respond at all. The key here is to be consistent – people can get a little touchy about things, and if you just ignore Steve but send a nice note saying why you declined to Candace, Steve might get pissed. I think he’d be an asshole if he did, but I’m a fan of preempting asshole moves where possible.
Note: This has inspired some more thoughts on ways to not be a jerk on Facebook, so keep an eye out for an essay in the coming weeks.