In this era when so much communication is done electronically, there can be few occurrences more confusing than receiving a Facebook friend request. Don’t get me wrong, such a request can really brighten up my day. Likewise, however, requests can leave me feeling totally confused.
The great thing about social media, in particular Facebook, is that it enables you to establish friendships online which can convert to real life friendships. I hardly used Facebook before I became a dad but for parents, particularly someone like myself who is the main carer for his kids, Facebook can be a very useful, maybe even vital, method of communication. When it comes to friend requests, I think it’s wonderful when someone I lost contact with 10, 15 or even 20 years ago unexpectedly gets in touch.
My late teens and twenties, long before I had children, were an unsettled time. I moved around quite a bit going to college and frequently changed jobs and addresses. To my regret, I lost touch with some great friends along the way. When someone I previously knew gets in touch I’m usually delighted.
I can’t, however, say every friendship request I receive makes my heart leap with joy. Oh no, some strike me as bizarre.
The one that left me particularly perplexed was a guy I knew from when I was in my early twenties. We were never in danger of being best friends. I’m pretty sure my daughters would describe this chap as “grumpy.” The last time I recall speaking to him we were in a pub with a group of friends and he’d had too much shandy to drink.
I can’t honestly recall what his problem was, but the shandy had got the better of him and for some obscure reason he was threatening to put me in hospital (or some such deeply unpleasant variant). As luck would have it, I was soon moving from the area and so it wasn’t too difficult to ignore him and depart without speaking to him again.
One day, many years later, he sent me friendship request. You won’t be surprised to hear I declined it.
Allow me to be charitable. Maybe he wished to make amends, and this was his way of reaching out. If so, then I wish him well. That said, we hadn’t had anything to do with each other for a very, very long time so I didn’t feel particularly enthused about accepting the request, regardless of our troubled past.
This is a fascinating aspect of the whole Facebook thing. It enables us to keep in touch with people long after a friendship should have reached its natural conclusion.
I always think it sad that friendships won’t last forever, but certain milestones in life unquestionably have an impact on who you remain friends with. Leaving home to enter higher education is one such milestone.
I am very lucky to still have a few good friends from ‘back home.’ That said, many of my school friends left to enter higher education and settled in different parts of the country. We drifted apart and wouldn’t have anything in common these days, save for memories of stupid nights out when we were young and immature.
One request from a former friend left me feeling guilty. This guy, I’ll call him Bob, was part of a reasonably tight friendship group but we all headed off to higher education at about the same time.
Bob didn’t come from the most straightforward of family backgrounds. I think he understandably felt abandoned when we all went to study and to be quite blunt, that is what happened: His main social network went off to study and we didn’t stay in touch with him.
Had I stayed living in the area, I think we’d have drifted apart anyway. Bob’s behaviour could be a bit challenging at times and so when the request came on Facebook I declined it. Even so, I feel quite uncomfortable about all that happened in the past as, collectively, there’s quite a strong argument we let this guy down, albeit unintentionally.
Going even further back, I recently received a request from someone I’d have considered an acquaintance at school (not a friend but an acquaintance). This wasn’t someone I was hugely friendly with so I was very surprised when his request arrived.
Why did I turn the request down? Well, firstly we weren’t really friends in the first place. Second, my one enduring memory was this guy’s party trick which was to get his genitals to make a noise from within his trousers.
I don’t wish to hold this behaviour against him. He was behaving like a silly teenager. Even so, I hope you will understand that I didn’t feel inclined to accept his request.
While I don’t wish to open up a whole new debate, there is also the issue of unfriending people. I shan’t say too much, but a recent-ish referendum led to me waving bye bye to a few people on Facebook who voted a certain way, the opinions they were prepared to express online in total contrast to the individuals I thought they were.
Anyway, I digress. Facebook and social media are funny old things. They’re simply a part of life and I shall carry on as I always have, judging each Facebook friendship request on its merits. If, however, you send me a friendship request and you have been rude to me in a pub, don’t expect me to accept it.
How do you handle Facebook friendship requests? Have you had any strange ones from exes, former work colleagues or people who have verbally abused you in pubs? If so, please do share your story in a comment below or track me down on social media where I can be found on most channels at @dadbloguk.