Facebook FriendRequest Phobia©



I didn’t request you as a friend on Facebook.

There, I said it.

And it’s because I have Facebook FriendRequest Phobia©.

I joined Facebook about a year ago. And from the beginning, the whole thing scared me. I was immediately poked. And then I was pelted with a virtual snowball. What the–?

For months, I just lurked. I read the Status Updates and clicked through to look at other people’s friends.

My Inbox quickly filled up with Friend Requests from former co-workers, high school friends and family members.

I loved logging on and seeing the icon with the number of Friend Requests. (And don’t even pretend like you’re not excited when you see lots of Friend Requests. Or that you’re not bummed when you don’t have any.)

But Facebook is high school all over again. And for me, this comes with some issues…

I wasn’t a part of the In crowd in high school. I orbited a few popular circles. And somehow, all my closest friends (and my high school boyfriend) had one foot in the popular crowd. But I was firmly in the Other category, possibly the only cheerleader in the history of the sport who didn’t fit the mold of swingy hair, football player beau and head-turning cuteness.

So I approach things like Facebook with extreme caution. People can request my friendship? And I can Confirm or Ignore? Interesting.

But wait. If I ask for someone’s friendship, they can Confirm or Ignore me too?

Flashback to: Fifth grade and the constant teasing. Seventh grade and Ronald Hicks nicknaming me “Aliya The Cheetah” in honor of my freckled face. Eighth grade Truth-or-Dare, when my crush, Stephen, was dared to kiss me (on the cheek for God’s sake!) and he took Truth instead; the junior prom, when my boyfriend and I were scrambling to find a cool table and end up sitting with the other couples who didn’t have anyone else to sit with… freshman year of college, when the cute boy who seemed like he might be checking for me told his roommates to say he wasn’t at home when I stopped by to say hello….

Realizing that I could be Ignored on Facebook took me to a dark place. I’m a grown woman. Married. Children. I should not be concerned about being Ignored. But I was! I couldn’t bear the thought of requesting a friendship and being Ignored!

So I made a solemn vow. I would never, ever, request someone’s Friendship. If they requested me, great. But I’d never put myself out there.

I broke my own rule only once. For a man we’ll call Gelson Norge.

Gelson Norge is the patron saint of all writers with a background in urban entertainment. I’ve always felt a special connection to him since we both started out at Billboard, though he was long gone by the time I arrived. He’s excelled in every genre of media: fiction, nonfiction and film.

He’s my idol.

Many years ago, I wrote a book proposal called Off The Record: The Rise and Fall Of Hip-Hop Journalism. I called Gelson Norge and he graciously agreed to talk to me. I went to his office in Manhattan and he gave me two hours of his time, breaking down the history of the coverage of urban music in mainstream publications before magazines like The Source and VIBE existed.

I would run into Gelson Norge from time to time over the years and he always had a word of advice for me. He even gave me the name and number of the woman who would become my first literary agent.

So in my early days of Facebook-ing, I ran into Gelson at a listening session for Erykah Badu’s latest album. We ended up sitting next to each other. I re-introduced myself to him and we had a great conversation.

“What happened to the book you were working on?” he asked.
“A few editors loved the idea,” I said. “But they all feared no one would actually go out and buy it.”

Gelson nodded.

“I hear that,” Gelson said. “But I still think it’s a great idea.”

Gelson took out his Blackberry and gave me the name and number of an editor he thought would be interested in the book. We continued to small talk for a while before we went our separate ways.

And I went home and sent him a Friend Request.

I sent a note along with my request:
“Gelson, so good to see you at the listening session. Thank you so much for your help and suggestions, I really appreciate it!”

Surely he wouldn’t Ignore me. Right?

Well, I forgot about the Friend Request. Until I saw him pop up in my News Feed. I clicked on his picture and noticed that he wasn’t on my Friend List.

I had been Ignored.

Just as I feared! The very reason I didn’t send out requests! Hmph.

Now. I’m sure there are many of you who will say, you’re pathetic. It’s not that serious. Get over it.

I will do no such thing.

After Gelson’s snub, I re-dedicated myself to not sending out Friend Requests and I stuck with it.

But Facebook needs the whole universe to be connected. I guess so that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, can effectively take over the world at some point. So the site has a way of tricking me into submitting a Friend Request. And it took me months to figure it out.

It’s called the Friend Suggestion.

It comes up in your InBox. It looks like a FriendRequest. It gives you the option of Confirm or Ignore. But it’s NOT a friend request.

It’s another Friend who has SUGGESTED you become friends with someone else. The nerve!

A few times, before I understood what was going on, I would click on Confirm. And then weeks would go by and I would get a message:

So-and-so had accepted your Friend Request.

Wha–? Accepted my whaa? Hmph! I never asked for your friendship!

Well, it turns out, I had.

And I don’t like that one bit.

These days, I find myself staring at the screen when a Friend Request pops up. Is this for real? Is this a suggestion? Or some other trickiness Facebook’s peddling?

Here’s a great example.

Be'n. You know I love you. But stop with the suggestions. Thanks.

Be'n. You know I love you. But stop with the suggestions. Thanks.

Harve Pierre has been down with BadBoy since it’s inception. He’s served as president and has done vocal and production work for everyone from Faith Evans and Total to Carl Thomas and Black Rob. I’ve interviewed him many times for different Bad-Boy related stories but I doubt he remembers me. So when I got this faux-FriendRequest a few weeks ago, I looked closely, saw it wasn’t a true request and I ignored it.

Facebook has another dastardly plan to get us all connected. It’s called the People You May Know feature. And it’s on the right hand side of your screen. Usually, I know at least one of the three people featured. But I can never get myself to submit. I’ve seen good friends in that feature. Their pictures calling out to me, sayin, girl, you’re not gonna send me a FriendRequest? Don’t be like that.  But I just. can’t. do. it. The first thing I think is: Have they seen me in that section? If they have, they didn’t send me a Friend Request…

And every time I sign in, there’s three more people staring at me, making me feel guilty. Let’s see who Facebook thinks I should be Friends with right now.

Derrick and Nicole...Where do I know you from?

Derrick and Nicole...Where do I know you from?

I don’t know Nicole or Derrick.

But Karen Good! She’s one of my favorite writers. Period.

Karen wrote a cover story for VIBE on Brandy back in  April of 1998.

A classic in celebrity journalism. Seriously.

A classic in celebrity journalism. Seriously.

And this story changed the way I looked at celebrity features. The way Karen captures the cadence and flow of her subject’s voice is unparalleled. I wish I could post an excerpt. But I couldn’t find one online. All I remember was that Karen was in Brandy’s bedroom, as Brandy prepared for a date with Wanya from Boyz II Men. I remember a scene where  her mother was standing in the doorway, observing the scene and not being happy about it but knowing she couldn’t do anything about it. It was sheer genius. Trust me.

Anyway. I’d love for Karen to be a FacebookFriend. But the insecure high-school part of me doesn’t want to send her a request. If she Ignored my request, I’d feel dumb. And believe me, I totally understand that some people want to keep their Facebook pages tight. And limit it to close friends and family. (Right, Ex-Boyfriend Who Deleted Me?!)

So I sigh. And I don’t click.

Later on today, I get another set of three folks that Facebook thinks I should know.

Farai. I want to be your friend.

Farai. I want to be your friend.

At the top is Farai Chideya, former host of News and Notes on NPR. She interviewed me for the show after my story on Malcolm Shabazz was published.

If you’d like to listen to the interview click here. Sidebar: How does NPR make everyone’s voice sound so soft and soothing? I felt like even if I wanted to yell, it would come out like a whisper…

Anyway. I’d love for Farai to be my Friend. Still not sure if my pride will let me request her Friendship.

The real test is on that same page. Right underneath Farai is the name Lynette Lee. I grew up across the street from Lynette and we lived on the same block my whole life. She actually babysat me a time or two. And she was like the neighborhood mom. Except she wouldn’t (necessarily) tell on you if she saw you doing something you had no business doing.

How could I NOT submit a FriendRequest to Lynette? Well, a rule is a rule. Right?

Wrong! Rules are made to be broken gosh darnit! And as I open myself up to you Dear Readers, I will take this opportunity to stop being a shallow, prideful, insecure loser. As soon as I press Publish on this post, I will send out Friend Requests to Karen Good, Farai Chideya and Lynette Lee. Hell, I’m gonna throw one to Harve Pierre too. What could it hurt? I will not be afraid of being Ignored!

Dear Readers, how do you handle Friend Requests? Be honest with me, do you double back and check to see if people have accepted your request? Do you feel a way when you see that you’ve been Ignored? Does anyone else have an Confirm-or-Ignore-only policy like me? I’d love to hear from you…

P.S. A few weeks ago, I got a FriendRequest from Gelson Norge. I accepted without hesitation. =)

27 Responses to “Facebook FriendRequest Phobia©”

  1. kaia zawadi Says:

    great story aliya. i feel your pain also, but being that I am trying to connect and network with many media professionals on fb, I just go out there and requested those contacts. yup and there were those who i would still see “awaiting request pending” on my pg. lol. for the record, i’m glad you accepted my friend request.

  2. Hanif Sowell Says:

    I think we all have a tendency to think that everyone looks at face-book from the same perspective. I’m very liberal, and I’m one of those people who accept whoever asks. Every now and again I send out request to old high school friends when I think of them, if they remember me. Great. If they don’t I’ll remind them.

    I remember getting a little anxiety from a certain NYT bestselling author. I was tagged in a note she wrote about the success of the book, and I shot her a couple of emails, and no response… I’m thinking she’s usually pretty prompt on responding so after a few days I began to worry, then after a week or two, I might have let the term “Hollywood” slip out.  All for naught, people get busy and side tracked.
    I can tell you that by no means am I as organized as you when it comes to organizing friends, (I don’t think anybody is for that matter) that’s why I just confirm line A all the way. I have a few friends now who I’ve never met. I just confirmed them because they have the same last name as me.
    Overall, I think the set up is pretty discreet when accepting and ignoring friends, It would be really messed up if you got a little note saying IGNORED or DENIED by “such and such” that would really work wonders for your ego.

  3. Gene Williams Says:

    Gelson Norge huh? Thats a tough one. LOL

    Good story though. :)

  4. Antonio Says:

    Amazing – technology has altered how we interact with one another, and in many ways has shut us down from communicating with people in the more intimate, traditional ways a la writing a letter or going to someone’s house for lunch or actually picking up the phone and [gasp!] dialing a number that we know by heart.

    But yet, even in all of our texting and IMing and emailing and twittering and MySpacing and Facebook-friend-requesting ways, we are still our true, vulnerable selves. This is totally a testament to that – great post Aliya, definitely.

  5. Aliya S. King Says:

    @kaia: I’m trying to use Facebook as a marketing tool as well, so I need to suck it up and start friend requestin’

    @hanif: hmmmm, who is this author you speak of? And did she eventually hit you back?!

    @Gene: You know Gelson Norge too!? =)

    @Antonio: Thanks!! Y’know, I think that’s the beauty of technology. Somehow, it still preserves our vulnerability. It’s not making us robots. Which is a good thing…

  6. Tremaya Says:

    I guess I’m shameless, I’ll friend request absolutely anyone that I have a genuine interest in. Authors, celebrities, CEO’s, old friends, I have no shame. All they can do is reject me, won’t be the first or last time I’m sure. :) However, everyone I friend, I friend for a reason. I may like their writing, they might be an awesome singer, could be I’m just being nosey, sometimes I have plans and ideas for the future that will include them. I just wish FB would add an option that would allow you to request a personal explanation as to why someone wants to be your friend to begin with….I think that would be quite interesting.

  7. Jovi Says:

    Before accepting a friend request I look to see if the name or face looks familiar or if we have mutual friends. If none of the above I ignore the request. I am using this tool to connect with old friends and classmates, not to get date.

    I too have a fear of rejection but realize that some people sign on to facebook just to see who is on or to see what the hype is all about and never sign on again. So if you send a request and they don’t respond, just think of it as their lost, not yours.

  8. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Tremaya: Thank goodness for your shamelessness! I might never have found my kindred-pen-spirit! And I think FB does have that option. You can always send a message along with your Friend Request, no?

  9. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Jovi: really? with no exception? you always Ignore if you don’t recognize them or have mutual friends?!

  10. Jovi Says:

    Yes. Well. Ok, I accepted one last week. He sent me an instant message and I got scared and ignored him. Yes I am a punk. I went to his page to see if I knew him and he was from the UK. NOPE. I only know two people there and it was neither of them.

    I have a NEW friend phobia. If you are a friend of a friend then you become MY friend. If we have no friends in common it makes me feel very uncomfortable. I like to have the comfort feeling that if we become more then friends and something happens to me, some one will be able to say they know him, he lives in X, momma’s name is Y and drives a Z.

  11. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Jovi: I am cracking up over here. I feel you on the NEW friend phobia. That, I don’t have. There are probably over a hundred people on my FriendList that I wouldn’t know if they came to my house for Sunday dinner.

    Lives in X, Momma’s name is Y and drives a Z. I love it.

  12. yes Says:

    I have pending friend requests from certain people that I know actively use facebook. I would rather them just ignore it than to let it sit. Some people I can tell they haven’t been on in ages so I don’t worry about it.

    I hate People You May Know. They find the most random people. Just because they live in my city doesn’t mean I know them. ???

    Sometimes you just have to take a chance like Tremaya said. Either they will approve it of they won’t.

  13. Hanif Says:

    @ Aliya, not quite. We talk indirectly through a very popular blog she has on facebook. No worries, I understand…all questions were answered. It’s all good.

  14. Chris Wilder Says:

    Nicole Yvonne Duncan Smith is a good example, Aliya. I don’t know her either but, she is a Facebook friend. I’m pretty sure she requested me. I don’t just randomly request people. Of the random requests that I get from people that I don’t know, the first thing I do is look at their school. If they went to Howard, it’s an automatic confirmation. If they went to Penn, the confirmation is more than likely but, not automatic. In the case of Nicole, I saw that she went to Spelman. Okay, Black school. But then I saw that she was from Philly and based on her high school info, we’re around the same age. So, she is around my age, is from Philly and lives in New York now, that’s good enough for me. The Black school was just an added thing that we have in common. She got friended.

    I also friend people when we have a lot of mutual friends. But that, too, has to be checked out. If we have 10 mutual friends but seven of them are Meagan Goode, Erick Sermon, DNice Jones, Terry Crews, Rae Dawn Chong, MC Lyte and Rasheed Wallace, I’m not gonna friend you. I don’t count famous people as mutual friends. Shit, I don’t know them. Well, I do know D-Nice and Rasheed Wallace but, you get the point.

    I get random notes from people saying how they were in high school and read The “original” Source back in the day and it shaped their life. I also get people that remember a specific thing I wrote in like 1992 and will quote it back and say how much they liked it. They usually come through with no “mutual friends” but, I friend those people anyway.

  15. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Chris: I don’t have any famous Facebook friends. I’d like to know more about that. Do you think these people are really updating their status, et al. Do they interact? Write on the walls of other famous friends? That would be interesting.
    And of course you would Friend people giving you A-teamer big-ups. How could you not?! =)

  16. The Week In Review: January 24, 2009 « Aliya S. King Says:

    […] learned that it’s totally common to freak out over your friend requests. In my post on my phobia of requesting friends, I admitted that I seldom request friendships. […]

  17. Chocolate Chiq Says:

    …came to your site by following a series of links of fav blogs….it’s really nice to see so many “writers”, I just started blogging last year, but enjoy reading blog post w/ a little meat to them….

    About the post, you have given me the courage to go out and request some friends who I would actually like to connect with and am actually interested in what they are doing.

    I do have one problem, accepting some folks whom I don’t have any common interests with or would be interested in my blog or the fact that I would not be interested in their blog/business/updates.

  18. Aliya S. King Says:

    @Chocolate Chiq: welcome! stay a while! I encourage you to send out those FriendRequests! I’m still overcoming the phobia and I’m taking it slow. ha.
    And as for people w/no common interests–I have several friends in that category. I made a separate category, called Who Is This? And I just put them there. Very often, through commenters on my blog or just random Internet connections, I end up reconnecting with the people in my WhoIsThis folder and they get moved to a “real” folder….

  19. Lalipa Says:

    Hi Aliya
    I would really like to share my story with you, and hope that it will make you laugh.

    First off, I sent friend requests to people in the past who have ignored me. And then I am very THANKFUL that they ignored me because I sent those friend requests out of impulse to people whom I didn’t know that well to begin with, and whom I now consider to be quite ‘creepy’. Anyway, enough with those complications…

    Then comes the friend requests that I very sincerely send out, because I genuinely want to be friends with them, and I always had sincere intentions. But a few of those people just left those requests pending, and I know because it always says ‘awaiting friend confirmation’ on their profile.

    And yes I know they have been online because there are always more people being added to their friends list, but I certainly wasn’t one of them. I’ll tell you about one of them. I think she’s weird.

    It was this Japanese girl who lived on the same floor as me at this post-graduate hostel that I stayed in very briefly. I didn’t know that well. We met through a mutual friend. There was this once when she, myself, and our mutual friend went see a movie together. Before the movie, I actually invited her to my flat to have dinner because she likes Thai food. She and our mutual friend both came to my flat for dinner. I think it all went really well. Anyway, our mutual friend is not on facebook. But the girl is. So I sent her a friend request. This girl never accepted my friend request. I invited her to my flat back in November, and cooked her a meal for God’s sake! I think people are so weird!

    So this is what I did. I took steps to cancel my friend request to this girl. If you know how to do it on facebook, you can actually do it successfully! It’s all a matter of blocking her on privacy settings, then removing that block, so on, so forth. So: friend request cancelled! No harm done! I mean, in this respect, I am maintaining my dignity!

    Another example is a very long-lost childhood friend of mine who is also related to my extended family. I sent her a friend request as well as a very nice greeting, wondering if she still remembers me. I also sent her name to my cousin (who is also her cousin) through ‘friend suggestion’. She accepted my cousin’s request, but not mine! How weird is that! It could well be that she doesn’t remember me!

    I agree with ‘yes’, because I would rather people just ‘ignore’ my friend requests than let them sit ‘pending’ in their box. That way, it is over and done with, and you know where you stand! I mean, if they want to ignore me, I’d rather know about it!

    I’m not going to dwell on it. I mean, the whole issue of confirming or rejecting a request on facebook is all based on subtlety.

    What do you think?!

  20. Aliya S. King Says:

    @lalipa: I never knew you could cancel a friend request!!!! That is incredible! and I don’t understand how anyone could not accept a friend request that came with a greeting. She didn’t respond at all? And yes, the whole issue is subtle…to the point of being INSANELY anxiety-producing. Sigh.

  21. Lalipa Says:

    The way to cancel a friend request on facebook is actually quite sophisticated, and I believe not many people know about it. You go to your privacy settings. You will then find the ‘block’ option. If you want to block people, you type in their name.

    So if you want to cancel a friend request, type down that person’s name and block them. Your request is then automatically cancelled. If you wish to remove the block, by all means do so. Your request will remain cancelled.

    Sometimes I get a little paranoid, wondering if the way I worded my very sincere greetings offended those people in some way. Maybe they have a ‘snob complex’ that I don’t know about, because I well and truly do not know what I did wrong in this respect. I just sincerely wanted to be their friend.

    And in this day and age, I think sincerity can be quite a scarcity.

    Thanks for your reply.

  22. drea Says:

    aww thank you thank you thank you, saved me from friend request disaster

  23. Jennifer Says:

    Wow, I can relate like most to your story. For my own security I have found not using my full name on Facebook has helped me pick those people who I do know from school and from work. When I send a request to someone I know, I reveal my full identity and then they are so happy it is me. II don’t want my ex boyfriends as a friend on facebook. I don’t want my haters as friends either because knowing of their negative vibe there is not worth it for me. I also don’t want random people trying to add me and they have not sent me a note saying WHY they want to add me.

    I appreciate you sharing so much of your personal story with us.

    Remember that blocking and delete are your friends on facebook!!

  24. Keisha Says:

    Aliya, I know you posted this a long time ago, but I just discovered your website, and believe it or not – I just requested you as a friend on facebook!

    I knew exactly what you meant when you wrote about not being in the in crowd. I always tell people that I wasn’t either and they say, “who, you? not with the popular girls?” Yes me, I was on a squad in the band, but my friends were friends of the in crowd – I was just the nice, overweight girl who got good grades in spanish class.

    Facebook became a way for me to share pictures with friends and family out of town, but then high school folks started popping up and people were requesting me to be their friend. Who is that? I would often ask. Then I would call on the two remaining friends I have from HS to find out who those folks were (because my two remaining friends were of course friends with friends in the in crowd.) I never ignored or cancelled a request because I have issues with rejection (long story) and didn’t want to make anyone else feel rejected because I really felt like that rejection would somehow come back to me. But then there were times when I didn’t really know them and was unsure as to whether I wanted them checking out my honeymoon shots or pics of my family on Thanksgiving. You know? So all that say, when I saw you as a friend of a friend I took the plunge. I have only ever made one friend request on Facebook – you. But that’s because I think I decided (before even reading this piece) that you were safe and I think I felt I could take rejection from you. I am overflowing with pride because I know you. I am so proud of you, your career and the fact that you have followed your dream. And honestly, I don’t need the facebook confirmation, I am more than happy to run into you in a diner or the supermarket and catch a passing hello. I think I decided that I need to get over myself. Maybe I need to start checking out the suggestions on the side of the page, send some requests to people that I know are on here and ask about their life. Maybe I need to start rejecting the requests from the I-don’t-really-know-them folks without the fear that I too will be rejected.

    Either way I started with you. Thanks sweetie for looking into my soul a little bit, without even knowing. And keep up the good working.

  25. Ben Says:

    I have the same kinds of inhibitions and causes as you do, but policies and rules don’t have to be of the all-or-nothing variety. My own policy is heavily on the side of not initiating friend requests, but I do make a few exceptions now and then when I’m in a more social mood.

  26. Ben Says:

    It was touching to read that last comment by Keisha.

  27. jemmy Says:

    If you block someone on facebook, that is not the same as cancelling your friend request. Its actually much simpler than that. You simply go into the ‘all connections’ part of the Friends section (which shows that persons photo and the fact that your request is still pending). Then press the remove button at the side and a dialog box pops up that says ‘are u sure u want to cancel your request?’ You say ‘yes’ and Bobs ur uncle! Easy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: