Thursday, August 20, 2015

Awkward: Friend Requests

I avoided Facebook for the first ten years or so of its existence. I was wary of the idea of being connected to everyone I had ever known. I still am. Nevertheless, it’s been about a 1 ½ years since I’ve joined and I’m still navigating the awkward world of Facebook. There’s a lot of good to it. It’s great for networking and collaborating. But the other side is people who aren’t really close to you have a portal to your personal life. That seems to be especially true if you are visible or have any sort of professional or ministry platform. Then, even more people want to be connected to you. Therefore, here are some tips I was given that might help you to navigate the awkward world of friend requests.

As uncomfortable as it might be, you are always free to ignore or not accept a request. My personal rule is that if I don’t immediately know who you are or if I have to click on your image and see who we have in common, chances are I don’t really know you. So, as much as I don’t want people to feel rejected, I also don’t want a bunch of people creeping on my page that aren’t really a part of my life.
Let’s say you are somewhat acquainted. What if you have 40 mutual friends and chances are you’ll bump into this person? Then, if it would create more awkwardness to ignore their friend request, it might be best to go ahead and accept them. But what you can do is create different lists. Create an acquaintance list, family list, business contacts list, friends list, close friends list, etc. If you take the time to put people in categories on social media just as you would in real life, then you can eliminate the uncomfortable feeling of your distant church member seeing vacation pictures, or your friend’s mom seeing your silly post about that bad date.
Another option is to periodically clear out your contacts. Do you ever go through your phone and delete contacts that you never use? Do the same with Facebook. If it’s been six months and you haven’t interacted with this person at all…if they don’t like your posts and you don’t comment on theirs…if there’s been no interaction since the initial acceptance…if you’ve never had an actual conversation with this person or if their posts upset you… if you believe perhaps you’ve been blocked or deleted or if they inactivate their account, then go ahead and delete them. It’s not necessarily personal. It’s not about being mad at them or not liking them. It’s just about managing the connections that come into your life in a healthy way. If you don’t have a goal of collecting thousands of “friends,” then be strategic about who you allow to attach you. Don’t you do that in real life?

Admittedly, all of this is easier said than done. It can be very uncomfortable to interact online. If you delete someone on one site, but they follow you on another, that can get weird. If you send a request and someone ignores it that can be awkward. If you didn’t anticipate seeing someone in person and then you do, then that might be uncomfortable once again. But hey, it is what it is. Being protective of your social and emotional life doesn’t make you mean. It makes you wise. However, there’s always another side to things. So next up, we’ll talk about when you’re the creeper in Awkward: Looking, Liking, and Lurking.

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