Thursday, February 2, 2012

Facebook is Not So Friendly Anymore

Recently, I received a warning from Facebook telling me not to "friend" anyone I don't know.  I was a little surprised to get the notice but it turned out to be a good exercise in clarifying a few things for me.

Click the image to enlarge

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.

Friendly Genealogists

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.


  1. Marian:

    Great information! I receive friend requests all the time from people I'm not familiar with and generally accept them if we have friends in common....especially if they are genealogy friends. I'd hate to accidentally report someone to Facebook by pressing "I don't know this person".....

  2. I received this message two weeks ago. I knew not to click "I don't know this person" because a neighbor did that and was banned from Facebook for a time period. She is back on, but considering leaving for G+. She still doesn't know what she did wrong, and there is no recourse to find out. She had recently attended a conference, too, and it was probably a colleague who didn't recognize her name. We'll never know because there is no communication with the Facebook gods.

  3. I have made several wonderful friends by adding them or they have added me thru a mutual contact. One friend of mine has gotten a one week ban on adding new friends on Facebook because someone reported that they didn't know him. I think Facebook needs to clear this option up a bit...

  4. Ray Johnson, a Chicago genealogist was banned from making friends and participating in group chats for about a week for being "too friendly". I thought FB was supposed to be social, friendly, etc. This is just getting ridiculous.

  5. I had no idea I was possibly getting people banned from fb by hitting that option. I would apologize but I don't know who they were! I have accepted friend requests from people I don't actually know and who know someone I know. I met some of my best fb contacts that way.

  6. This, in part, is why I left FB. They keep changing the parameters, my friends and family lists spun out of control, and I was spending way too much time sifting for those good nuggets of information and insights. It got too unwieldy for me.

    I may return and 'start all over' but not any time soon.

  7. Thanks for sharing this, Marian. I have only once used the "I don't know this person" button. I had no idea it meant the person was reported. I can't even remember who they were - but I feel awful now.

  8. If I get a friend request from someone I don't recognise, I send them a message (if their settings will allow it) and say I don't recall knowing them and give them an opportunity to explain before I tell Facebook that I don't know them. So far, not one of these strangers has come back and reminded me of our connection - so they really were strangers to me. They're up there with the men who send lame messages via Facebook trying to pick me up over the 'net. And totally different to people who are strangers to me who say up front why they've contacted me - then I can make a realistic choice whether I want to make a new friend that way or not.

  9. I agree with Anonymous. Once upon a time, didn't Facebook let us include a comment with our friend request, so that we could introduce ourselves? If I don't recognise the person who sent the request (or if their profile photo is a cat, dog, baby etc) I try to send a Direct Message - but some people's settings do not allow "Anyone" to send them a message. I discovered recently (by accident) that if I see the question "Do you know this person outside Facebook?", I can avoid answering it by just clicking 'Home'. Despite the frustrations, I am using Facebook for our Genealogists for Families group, and for friends who don't use Google+. I actually find G+ very slow to load, and that is frustrating too.

  10. I always click on the name and go to their page, rather than replying directly to the 'do you know this person' - it does not trigger the nasty note that way. Also, persons I don't know, face-to-face, but want to be a Friend, I mark as an acquaintance, on their page, and it has worked fine, now for a couple of months - since I last got a nasty letter. One more view and set of experiences to share! ;-)

  11. This was a great blog post for me with lots of helpful info. I am so busy with work computer stuff all day I tend not to pay that much attention to Facebook changes or settings. I know I should but it changes so much. I have learned as well not to accept mutual friends because and still goofed and accepted one last week. Her page was blocked and when I accepted I immediately got a bunch of game related posts. Not what I expected at all. I immediately removed her from viewing.

  12. I had no concept I was perhaps getting individuals suspended from fb by reaching that choice. I would say sorry but I don't know who they were! I have recognized companion needs from individuals I don't actually know and who know someone I know. I met some of my best fb connections that way.

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