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How Soon Can You Friend Someone on Facebook?

Before you send a send a friend request, make sure you know the level of "friendship" you have with that person—or else suffer the consequences. Here's how to know when to friend someone on Facebook.

By
Richie Frieman
6-minute read
Episode #285
friend request

I absolutely love talking about Facebook etiquette. It always seems to be a controversial topicand for good reason. For the life of me I can’t figure out why people put so much stock into their Facebook life. 

"Did you see my status today? Why didn’t you see my status? When will you 'Like' my status?"

Yeesh, enough already!

It’s not a race, it’s not a competition, and you shouldn’t be too eager to send a friend request to someone you just met or only talked to for seven seconds in the elevator.

I even wrote an article called "Real" Friends vs. Facebook Friends that discussed how worked up some of us get about adding “friends” to our network.

But adding friends to your list is all a part of the Facebook fun, right? Wrong! 

It’s not a race, it’s not a competition, and you shouldn’t be too eager to send a friend request to someone you just met or only talked to for seven seconds in the elevator. So, before you spend hours waiting anxiously in front of your computer to see if Beth—who you have never spoken to but see in the hallway every day—will accept your request, let’s pull back the veil of Facebook friendship.

Here are my top three Quick and Dirty Tips on how quickly you can legitimately friend someone on Facebook.

Tip #1: The new romance

Okay class, by a show of hands, how many of you have stalked someone on Facebook?

Come on now, I don’t see every single hand up…because it should be.

You won’t get an award for having 10,000 friends on Facebook, and you won’t be kicked out for having only 10.

Facebook stalking (in the safe/non-threatening sense) is when you look up a complete stranger, or someone you loosely know, and take a self-guided tour of their page.  The photo album entitled "Summer 2013"—don’t mind if I do! 

This especially happens when you are about to go on a date with someone or have just gone a first date.  So as you’re exchanging stories about what you like to do on the weekends, a thought comes to mind, “Should I friend them?” Then you teeter back and forth, not sure if you should make the first move. It’s like a social game of ping pong with one side of your brain saying, “Of course! Go for it, they’ll love it!” and the other side saying, “Wait…I’ll look like a stalker.”

After a date is over, you usually have a good idea of whether or not there will be a second date. And therein lies your answer. If you can see this person being a “friend”—either platonically or with benefits—then it’s a yes. However, if you think to yourself, “I'm not sure I want to see this person again,” then the answer is probably “No” to adding them as a Facebook friend.

Let’s be honest, you won’t get an award for having 10,000 friends on Facebook, and you won’t be kicked out for having only 10.

If you're worried about whether to extend a friend request or not, make sure that you can truly call them a friend in the first place (or at least that they're someone with friend potential).

When you add a person to your facebook circle, they’ll see everything you do. They’ll find out if you’re “in a relationship” and if you put “it’s complicated” as your status while dating them. They have access to your every move...awwwwkward.

So if you see this going for more than a couple of dates or remaining “just friends,” then go for it. However, if there is any doubt, do not feel obligated to accept their request or extend one yourself. You don’t owe a stranger a window into your social life.

Tip #2: The office “friend”

Facebook in the office is like scuba diving in an old boat wreck—you never know what freaky things you'll find around each dark turn when you dig deep enough.

The office is no place to take risks with Facebook. If you are not friends in real life, you can’t be friends on Facebook.

Take one Modern Manners Guy Facebook friend, Mike, who asked me about friending a nice young woman named Stephanie, who works in the cube across from him. He said she is funny, always willing to help out a fellow coworker, never complains about having to work late, and is generally the perfect coworker. However, the one thing Mike didn’t mention was that he’s only been at this job for six days and has yet to utter a single word to Miss Wonderful. He looked her up on Facebook (Stalker, table for one!) and it turns out they have a lot in common. Oh, yeah, except for one minor detail like actually being friends!

The office is no place to take risks with Facebook. If you are not friends in real life, you can’t be friends on Facebook.  It’s that simple.  So in Mike’s case, I advised him to hold off until he had at least one conversation with Stephanie where they connected on a non-work issues such as food, TV, movies, hobbies, etc. This is where a real friendship comes about. Not just talking about spreadsheets or conferences.

I told him that if Stephanie received his friend request without ever having contact with him before, she would most likely think three things:

  1. Mike—who is Mike? Oh, wait, is it that guy across from me? We’re not friends.

  2. Wait a second, did he look my name up on Facebook just to find me? Ewww.

  3. If I don’t accept he’ll know because we see each other every day and it will be uncomfortable. I don't like him for putting me in this position.

See where I’m going here?

If you are really itching to make the “friend” move, start a pleasant conversation on a regular basis—in person. As you do this, bring up something about Facebook like, “Oh, check this out, my friend just posted the funniest picture of his puppy on Facebook.” Now we’re getting somewhere!

Then, while on the topic of Facebook, feel free to inquire about whether the person is on it or not. See how they react and try to read it from there. Proceed further if—and only if—you feel there is an actual friendship other than, “Can you tell me where the conference room is?”

Tip #3: Wacky relatives

Here's a couple of facts about social media:

  • 60% of 50-60-year-olds are active on social media
  • in the 65+ bracket, 43% are using social media

So there should be no surprise that Facebook especially is no longer a “kid thing.” Many older people are reaching out to relatives of all ages to connect and catch up on the latest news in their life. And that's great!

The thing about relatives is that they tend to get a free pass when it comes to sharing their opinions of you.

However, let's look at the case of one Modern Manners Guy fan named Angela. She is an avid “Facebooker” and shares everything with her friends (her words).  She jokes that she actually overshares sometimes. At a recent family gathering, Angela reconnected with a cousin who is 10 years older. Angela got home and sent a friend request, her cousin accepted, but things went south a week later. Turns out, her cousin was not a big fan of Angela’s lifestyle. This cousin would send messages telling Angela that she disagreed with her choices, her photos, her status updates. Suddenly, Angela became Family Member Enemy #1, all because she posted bathing suit photos from her trip to Mexico.

The thing about relatives is that they tend to get a free pass when it comes to sharing their opinions of you. Friends may hold back, or be more guarded with their feelings, but relatives—man, oh man, they have less of a buffer (which, by the way, I do not think is fair—but that's a topic for another episode).

For Angela, this is a case of not properly measuring your relationship with the person before sending a friend request. Friending someone on Facebook sounds very easy: “I like this person—why not add them?” However, we tend to forget that not everyone will appreciate our sense of humor or what we share. When we friend someone before learning whether or not they're on our wavelength, we take the risk of offending them if they don't share our views.  Always remember that your innocent post may not be so innocent to someone with a different outlook on life. But now that you're “friends,” they have the right to comment on it.

Do you have any recent graduates in your circle, or perhaps someone who is looking to start a new career, check out my new book, Reply All…And Other Ways to Tank Your Career for great tips and advice on job success. It's available now!

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