Modern Etiquette: How to decline a friend request

How do I decline friend requests on Facebook? What happens if I run into the person in real life? - Social Shunner, Wellington

Two years ago, I deleted my Facebook page entirely, and didn't go back for six months. I had accumulated hundreds of social media friends I didn't care about - mostly met whilst travelling - and wanted to break free of being updated daily on random Brazilian girls' misadventures in Asia.

When I went back to Facebook, I did so under a pseudonym. Eventually some old friends did find me, though, and sent a friend request. So, I self-imposed a policy on friending: would I sit down and have a one-on-one coffee with this person?

If the answer was yes, they would get added. If it was no, they would be declined.

Given the personal nature of social networking, and how much private information is available about you on your pages, this is a good rule of modern social networking to follow.

The "how" of the decline is simple. Just press the "not now" button. Unsuccessful friends will then be left in your Facebook request graveyard before you one day click "delete forever".

If you run into those people in real life (I have), you're not going to have a problem because you're clearly only on small-talk terms anyway. As noted, you're not sitting down to coffee with them.

If the first thing out of their mouth when you bump into them on the street is, "You didn't accept my friend request!" then you know you've done the right thing, because that person is clearly crackers. Just say, "No, no I didn't. Sorry. Lovely day isn't it?". And keep walking.

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