Facebook etiquette question

Question for longtime Facebook users: What’s the proper etiquette when someone you do not know asks to befriend you? On LinkedIn, most people I know will link only with people they know, because that linkage might act as a recommendation, an endorsement, a reference. What’s the case on Facebook? Is it like Friendster, with an arms race of friends, the more the better? Or is it like LinkedIn, where the relationships and history matter? And if I agree to befriend someone I don’t know, is it then proper and necessary to say I don’t know them? Or is that rude?
(signed) New kid on the block

  • ahg

    Within the college context there is sometimes the arms race mentality. But generally speaking because the privacy layers on facebook are built around essentially granting people access by befriending them, I think it’s good practice to only friend your actual friends.

    You can send the awkward “who are you?” message, but you can also just say no. It doesn’t send a big “THEY SAID NO!” message or anything terrible like that.

  • Not really an answer, but a related observation….as Facebook expands from being a school-centric service to a true social networking platform they may want to consider adding some additional options to answer the “How do you know…” question. For instance, you (Jeff) and I ‘know’ each other from some email conversations we had a year or 2 back, but none of the available options worked for that type of connection. While “met randomly” doesn’t serve as a very effective memory jog (and you’re probably still trying to remember who I am) it was pretty much the only option available.

  • I wish they had a “been visiting your blog for 3 years but very rarely comment” option. I added you as a Facebook friend but that’s not one of the options.

  • It’s a good question, Jeff. I generally allow friendships if we have something in common – school, work, or a common friend, but generally not just geography. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but I wouldn’t friend someone who I only shared a geographic location with, so I tend to use the golden rule in that case…

    What is the threshold? You and I met and talked at the Norgs unconference a year or so ago and have perhaps had some e-mail conversations since, but have we reached the friends threshold? Hmmmm.

  • LOL – I guess I never gave the issue much thought.

    I usually just say out loud to myself, “Who the hell are you?” Then, if the photo of the person looks remotely interesting I’ll add them as a friend and check out their profile. If the profile is stupid, I remove them as a friend immediately. :)

    Also, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a message saying, “Hi – how do I know you? Where did we meet?”

    But I think quality over quantity on Facebook. It’s more “who you know” and not “how many weirdos you have listed as friends.”

  • Kate

    I agree with the earlier comment that among the college crowd, number of friends is sometimes equated with that much coveted popularity. I only friend people I actually know as a rule, because I want to be able to use facebook openly, sharing with my friends as it is intended without worrying about who’s looking over my shoulder.
    That said, the new wave of bloggers on facebook makes this rule tricky. I read this blog regularly, but don’t know you personally, Jeff. I want to be your facebook friend to show my support and be connected, but you may reasonably not want to friend me back.
    The question becomes how you want to use facebook. If you want to use it on a personal level, I’d understand refusing my pending friend request. But if you want to open your profile up into a professional tool, then it makes sense to allow fans in. When friending my favorite public people (for lack of a better term, celebrity isn’t right either), I usually include a message to show that I am a real fan.

  • Tom

    I’ve used a general rule that if the person wanting to befriend me is known to one of my existing facebook friends, they get a tick whether I know them or not.

    The difficulty is what to do with the people you have never heard of and are not known to your friends. It seems rude to just reject their offer, but over-familiar to accept. At the moment I have a limbo list as long as your arm. I thought I’d wait a few months until someone wrote a website with do’s and don’ts of facebook etiquette before acting.

    Over to you Jeff.

  • I’m mostly closed. I only accept invites if I know the person or if they wrote a note in their invite email that says something like “i read your blog” or “i’m also friends with so and so

  • I keep it to people I know… or really attractive women, who, on Facebook (unlike MySpace), tend to be actual humans.

  • Greg0658

    If I’ve met the person in person, or by phone and no punches were thrown verbally or with hands then I say ok.

    If the meeting is by blog and/or email only then it gets fuzzy. A response to comments/email = points to the good.

    I agree that it the move provides some endorsement. At a point 1000 friends looks like the individual collects them like CQ cards in ham radio, which I passed on playing that.

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  • I dont really understand the whole thinking behind a “friends arms race”. I dont really want people I dont know looking at the pictures I post for my real friends to see. I guess my general rule is if I havent met you in some form, usually in person, then we arent going to be friends on Facebook. Feel free to poke me though.

  • I’ve been thinking of developing hundreds of personalities on Facebook and selling them to the highest bidders in the endless Facebook “arms race.”
    I have honestly lost count of the number of “friends” the people around me have made it to, but the competitiveness is scary, very scary…

  • Jeff,
    It is largely a personal decision. It is not rude to not accept friend invitations if you do not know the person. You need to decide how you want to use facebook and what you want to have it do for you. It has some linkedin like qualities, and some friendster like qualities.

    However; the DNA of facebook is not friend collecting, or music centric or anarchy like myspace. The DNA of facebook is real people sharing real interests and real information and real behavior (not personna based).

    If you add a gazillion random “friends” that are people that you don’t know, you run the risk of data overload and distraction. However this network effect is actually good if you want a larger population to be aware of what you are doing via your mini-feed. There are pro’s and con’s to this approach.

    Again, As a blogger you are aware that 95% of the people that read your blog do not comment; they just want to read what you publish. So if you take the same approach on facebook, more people will be aware of what you “publish”; which happens to be how you behave, what groups you join, who you befriend, what applications you add/delete… Facebook can make you VERY transparent.

    The fact that you are using facebook at all suggests a fundamental shift and convergence of social media. ;) Facebook will become much more than just “another” social networking site. It already is much more than that in my opinion.

    Facebook has a huge opportunity to become very useful to many people older than 25. In fact it is already very useful in many ways and continues on a daily basis to become more useful as new application functionality arises. with 35,000+ developers building applications; very useful application will rise to the top (as will some entertaining and not inherently useful applications).

    I noticed that you are already a member of a group that we started, Facebook Applications: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2548175922

    We are reporting, reviewing and rating on these new facebook applications at http://www.facereviews.com


    Rodney Rumford
    Founder: Facereviews.com

  • jps

    The other day I received a friend request from someone who knew of me from high school but was two years younger than me. They said they recognized me so I accepted. But like many of the posters here, I like to keep my friends ‘pure’ — as in people I truly consider friends. So I wrote this person a friendly email to see if there is any familiarity or connection whatsoever. I haven’t received a reply so I plan to delete them. It’s as easy as that. I gave them a chance to make it ‘real’.

  • Paul

    I find it shocking that almost a year on since this blog post was made, and Facebook still hasn’t evolved to the point that I can add people who are within my ‘blogashpere’, and people I know personally, yet keep them (to a degree) seperate. I know that there are options to only show a limited profile, however, I feel this still doesn’t make it the ‘ultimate social network.’
    To remedy this, I only add people I know well to my account, and if anyone else adds me, I tell them straight – Sorry, but my facebook is quite personal to me. If you want to keep in regular contact with me, then feel free to message me on it [facebook] or subscribe to my Twitter account. This way, I’m cutting them off from my data, yet still allowing a portal to contact me with.

  • ALastair Jackson

    I simply cannot believe anyone takes all this so seriously.

  • Net Comment

    I am a facebook newbie but feel that the more “friends” you have the less you will be able to speak anything meaningful. I do wish that the “Make a list” feature could be more private – I hate it that if you make a list called “SO family” they can see that when they view your profile. That is totally not necessary. I mostly send messages – very rarely something on the wall. I am over 35, move and moved around a lot, changed a bunch of careers, married, with kids, pet owner, so there are many many people of all ages that I know and want to connect with – but I would not want my teenage niece reading what my drinking buddy from college has to say — etc etc. I just wish not only the friends list could be separate but the wall, newsfeed and comments too. I really don’t care much about the profile. Right now I am using FaceBook like a huge Phonebook – where I am putting in everyone’s contact. I send my different circle of friends messages only they can read.

  • steph

    I went to a friends facebook, and sent one of their friends, (who I had never met) a friendly message….nothing suss…well, apparently, that is a HUGE no- no….am fairly new to this, and didn’t the sh*t hit the fan!!! so, dont go there….apparently, its a gross overstepping of boundaries in the privacy place….what a mess.

  • …i need help…i can not find one friend…and she can not find me…what can i do???

  • steve

    Facebook etiquette?? Check out this site http://www.lamebook.com , it’s where
    all the poor etiquette from facebook ends up!

  • Hello NKOTB,
    I would not add people that you do not personally know.

    It may have to do with both your friend’s and your privacy settings being set too high. Adjust them momentarily so that you are able to find each other and restore your settings once the request has gone through.

    For answers to your Facebook Etiquette questions, please check out my blog: haleylandsman.wordpress.com. It is dedicated to answering questions like these and pointing out Facebook faux pas.


  • I think it depends on how much personal information you are divulging within the ‘safe’ confines of your Facebook account. Simply ask yourself the question “Do I want this person to have access to me and my network of true friends?”. Usually the answer will be no, sometimes the answer is yes. Using this code of conduct raises the perceived value of friendship and gives all of the current friends a warm feeling ;-)