Facebook Friend Requests: 6 Options

By , 09/24/2009


facebook by pshab

facebook by pshab

Last week, someone wrote to ask me for advice about handling a particular Facebook friend request. In discussing the options with her, I outlined the choices and thought this might be useful for others.

Whether the request is coming from a co-worker, relative or prospective employer, Facebook friend requests can sometimes be cause for pause or uncertainty. I can see the following options for handling Facebook friend requests:


  1. “Ignore” (refuse)  the request. If you select the “Ignore” button, the person requesting does not know that you’ve refused the request, but he or she can send you another request if they search for your name again. (See Facebook’s blog, “What Happens If I Ignore a Friend Request?“)
  2. Do nothing, and let the request linger without accepting or refusing. (Facebook’s terminology is a little confusing here, as “Ignoring” is really a denial, while actually ignoring is passive and doesn’t involve any action.)
  3. Send them a message. In the past this allowed the person requesting to view additional content on your profile, but I don’t believe this is the case anymore. (See “Facebook’s Trapdoor.”) It appears that this practice has changed because the alert message that used to appear no longer does. 
  4. Delete any potentially embarrassing or career limiting content from your profile, and then accept the request.
  5. Add them to a specific friend list and accept their request. Facebook has made some improvements to friend lists and privacy controls. Don’t know what a friend list is, or how to set one up? See ReadWriteWeb’s “5 Easy Steps to Stay Safe and Private on Facebook.” (This post is also a good reminder on Facebook privacy controls in general.)
  6. Accept the request.

After I talked her through the options, I found a post from Jeremiah Owyang on this topic, and he suggested an additional option: redirect the person to LinkedIn, with a note explaining why (“Help! My Boss Wants to Be My Friend on Facebook“). Jeremiah also talks about the various messages these actions might communicate.

Many people use Facebook more for personal than professional use. I’m one of them, and you won’t see a Facebook option on my “Contact” page here. However, I do have some professional contacts on Facebook, and my general rule of thumb is that everything I have on Facebook is something I’m comfortable if my mother and my boss(es) should see. But that’s fodder for a future post….

Are there other options for dealing with Facebook friend requests that I haven’t included here?


Could “Social Contagion” Affect Online Relationships Too?

By , 09/22/2009
Running or...by lgh75

Running or... by lgh75

The cover article of last week’s New York Times Magazine, “Are Your Friends Making You Fat?” explored the “emerging science of social contagion,” the idea that our behavior is influenced in both positive and negative ways by our social environments, that “behaviors…pass from friend to friend almost as if they were contagious viruses.”

The majority of the article focuses on the work of two social scientists, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler, and their work in analyzing the huge amount of data from something called the Framingham Heart Study. The Framingham Heart Study is unique among medical studies because of its size, scope and duration: the National Heart Institute has been following over 15,000 people since 1948, collecting a mass of individual information both broad and deep. And for the researchers, it also importantly tracked connections by asking participants to list some of their relatives and friends as part of the study. (Christiakis and Fowler first published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007, “The Spread of Obesity in a Large Social Network over 32 Years.”)

After years of mapping and analyzing the data, the scientists concluded that social ties did in fact influence certain kinds of behavior, so that if your spouse, friend or relative became obese, you had a greater likelihood of becoming obese too. (Refer to the full NEJM article for exact findings – the percentage was different for different types of relationships.) They also found that the effect played out over three degrees of connections, so your friend’s friend could also affect you.

The magazine piece does cover some of the critical responses to their work, including the general concern that amongst networks it can be difficult to prove cause versus correlation.

But, what struck me was a small bit towards the end of the piece about how some people are using Christakis and Fowler’s work to address broad-scale public health concerns using online social networks, and gives the example of a pending Facebook application to encourage people who are trying to quit smoking to take their struggle public and potentially influence others in their network of friends on Facebook.

Something a bit similar (but related to fitness and healthy living) exists on Twitter in the form of #twit2fit and it’s corresponding network on Ning (started by Jason Falls in May 2008). The article got me thinking about whether it would be possible to study the usage of #twit2fit on users health and well-being over time, and if there is a cause or correlation between usage and improved health.

What are your thoughts – do you find that sharing your goals or activities online has an impact on your potential success?


They’re Young, Have Them Tweet!

By , 09/17/2009

I came across a surprising post today on a PRSA blog (via @cubanaLAF) titled, “Status Update: Millennial Staffers Can Update Your Social Media Plans.” Lauren Fernandez and Kasey Skala (@kmskala) already have a great response post up, “There’s More to a Millennial than Updating Your Profile,” but I wanted to explore a bit further one of the misconceptions in the original PRSA post from a slightly different perspective. 

For the last almost two years, I’ve been speaking regularly to graduate students in communication and business programs about social media, as well as to clients at large companies, which has enabled me to see a bit of both sides of the coin. I’ve sometimes encountered a perception from some professionals that younger, Gen Y or Millennial people grow up with social media technology so must automatically know how to use it.  But the problem is, they don’t. That is, they may, but they’re more likely using Facebook or one of many other social media services or channels for personal use. They haven’t necessarily had the experience thinking about or working with social media in a business context and tying it to larger business or communication goals and strategies. (For more about teens on Twitter, see danah boyd’s post, “Teens Don’t Tweet…Or Do They?“)

This misperception came up with other educators in the field at the 2009 New Media Academic Summit in June, and other people I talked with voiced the same concern.

There are other problems with the original post, which Lauren and Kasey respond to further in their post. But I just wanted to highlight this particular misperception.  I think of it like this: just because I cook every day doesn’t make me a chef. Access and usage do not necessarily equate to expertise. 

What do you think?


Greetings and Salutations

By , 09/12/2009

Hello, and thanks for stopping by. I created this new site for two reasons:

1) I’ve needed a central home for my online activity that could expand and morph as needed. I’ve been blogging occasionally at the Logos blog (the company I work for) since January 2008, but there have often been ideas and topics that I was thinking about or working on that weren’t quite right for that space. (I’ll continue to contribute to the Logos blog as well.) And 140 characters on Twitter isn’t enough to really dive into a topic. 

2) I’m a new adjunct instructor at NYU in the Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications program, and will begin teaching a new course on social media in January 2010. I plan to use this site leading up to and during the course: to bounce ideas around, to communicate with students and others, and to provide a “home” for the course. This course is meaningful to me on a number of levels. I’ve been guest lecturing at NYU since early 2008, and have seen how courses in the program have been incorporating social media into the curriculum. At the same time, a dedicated social media course will provide an incredible opportunity for an in-depth examination of how social media is changing the worlds of public relations and corporate communications. I’m also a graduate of the program that I’ll now be teaching in, so the program, its faculty and students have a special significance for me.

Here’s to good dialogue, thought-provoking questions, and engaging debate. With a healthy dose of fun. Cheers.


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