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When you receive a friend request in Facebook you have 3 choices: 1) Ignore it and do nothing 2) Press the "Not Now" button which is pretty much the same as ignoring it or 3) Press the "I Don't Know This Person" button.
Accepting Friend Requests
I have always reserved the "I Don't Know This Person" button for people I didn't want to have friend me again. I didn't feel very strongly either way about them. It was sort of like using block in Twitter or Google+. It's not that I wanted to report them. I just didn't want to hear from them again because I didn't think there was a good fit.
I suspect that something has changed in Facebook (who knows when but my guess is right around the time they started public subscriptions) and this button is now sort of a report button for nefarious people who have the audacity to friend people they don't know.
Blocking vs. Reporting
As you can see from the warning above that Facebook is taking this very seriously. Facebook is making it too black and white and as usual not telling anyone what the rules are. I mean, how many of you knew that if you used the "I Don't Know This Person" button that you were reporting somebody and they could get blocked from Facebook? I certainly didn't.
The Fuzzy Gray Area
But Facebook is also not considering all the gray areas. What if you meet someone at a business or genealogy meeting. You send the person a friend request in Facebook but the person forgot that you had previously met. You really do know the person but now the person has reported you by pressing the "I Don't Know This Person" button.
And what about high school friends? One of your good female friends from high school sends you a friend request. She's using a little cartoon instead of a photo making it difficult to recognize her. Also, she now has a married name which you don't recognize. Will she be unfairly blocked by Facebook because you thought you didn't know her?
The gray area examples could go on and on.
I wish Facebook would come clean when they make changes like this. Instead they use a very subtle, almost unnoticeable approach. In this link, notice how they've added some extra text?
Facebook didn't use to say "If you know....," send a friend request. Before all you had was the send him a friend request link.
Pending Friend Requests
Another murky area is unanswered/pending friend requests. The ones that others have sent and you have ignored. I must have pending friends requests that I sent from when I got on Facebook 4 years ago. The funny thing is Facebook won't help you remember who you have sent requests to. You need to do that yourself. You can cancel friend requests but only if you can remember the name of the person you sent it to. Very strange.
Genealogists are a friendly bunch of people. We love to network and share information. Because we are scattered all over the country and all over the world we tend to network with people we haven't actually met in person. Many genealogists will accept friend requests from people when they share many friends in common. It's just what we do and how we network. (Though you should check out the person carefully before accepting a friend request, not matter how many mutual friends you have.)
Facebook's new policy has made it a little tougher for genealogists. And only because they haven't explained the rules. (One solution I can recommend is to head over to Google+ where you won't have this problem). The next time you receive a friend request think carefully before you press the "I Don't Know This Person" button.You might inadvertently block an otherwise friendly genealogist. But ultimately it's your call.
To learn more about friend requests on Facebook visit their Friend Request Help Center page. You many also want to visit their Community Standards page. This is what they are trying to protect you from.