Recently, I got several friend requests on Facebook from people I sort of knew in middle school. We went to different high schools, and so I haven't talked to them in five years, as I've just finished my first year in college.

I prefer to keep my Facebook friends to people I would really characterize as my friends. Many people I know don't take the phrase "Facebook friend" as literally as I do, and have many more "friends". I'm still making up my mind whether to accept or decline the friend requests, and it's been close to a week. On the one hand, I'm not that eager to expand my usage of the Facebook friend feature; on the other, these are nice, well-intentioned folks, and I don't want to offend them by declining their requests outright.

I'm currently leaning towards declining the request, but if I simply click "Delete Request", I'm pretty sure they'll get offended (they won't be notified if I decline it, but they'll notice at some point that I never accepted their request). On the other hand, I haven't spoken to these people in five years, and we've changed. I want to explain my reasoning, but I don't want my first contact with them to be "Hi, I have a narrow definition of 'Facebook friend', and you don't quite fit in it." That particular phrasing, for instance, is incredibly obnoxious.

How can I decline these friend requests from people I no longer know very well while still explaining why - without offending them or otherwise being rude?

As has been pointed out, folks don't get notified if their request is declined, and so I could simply leave things in limbo by not acting on the request. I'm not too enthusiastic about that suggestion; it feels like lying if I try to make them believe that I simply haven't seen the requests. I'm not very comfortable with ignoring them.

  • 1
    @Crafter0800 Fair point. I still think that it's a little rude to keep them in limbo, though. I do use Facebook regularly, so I don't really have a great excuse.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 13:36
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    I have a lot of friend requests just sitting there. if I click delete request then they know I have taken action to deny their request (they dont get notified, but the add friend button appears again). If I just leave it they can assume that I have not seen it if they wish to save their feelings
    – Kev Price
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 13:37
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    @Crafter0800 It's not friends-only, no.
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 14:11
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    Why do you need to justify this decision to someone you haven't spoken to in 5 years?
    – user20
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 14:58
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    I guess I know why you haven't accepted my friend request now... ;). Honestly, I have family who were sitting in my inbox for years without a response. My account is completely locked down so you have to have a mutual friend to even find me. Makes it easy because these randos can't send a friend request.
    – Catija
    Commented Jul 13, 2017 at 18:00

5 Answers 5


First you are over thinking this. They know you are not really friends, you are not in contact with them, and probably just sent you the friend request in case you wanted to reconnect. Chances are they will never even notice you didn't accept their request. If they do it will be months from now and they will question if they actually sent you the request or just thought about it. Either way they will either just send another request or move on.

If they do contact you there are a few easy deflections. I tend to just apologize and say I must not have realized who it was. There are enough fake accounts trying to connect on Facebook that a friend request with out a message is something I tend to avoid in the first place. I will also say something along the lines of "I don't really get on Facebook that much but I will try to remember to check for the friend request next time I do" This only works if you either don't get on Facebook much, or if you aren't posting publicly.

You can also go with "I try to keep my Facebook limited to friends I am hanging out with. But if you want to grab a drink sometime and catch up let me know." This has the benefit of being honest, direct and still polite. If you are not actually interested in getting a drink they will probably get that message if you cant find time to actually get that drink when and if they ask. This little fib is not being rude its called being a polite and respectful adult.


As has been pointed out, folks don't get notified if their request is declined, and so I could simply leave things in limbo by not acting on the request. I'm not too enthusiastic about that suggestion; it feels like lying if I try to make them believe that I simply haven't seen the requests. I'm not very comfortable with ignoring them.

It's honestly ok to ignore friendship requests, people do it all the time. It's part of the social media dynamics.

The issue is, any contact you make to say you're not accepting the friendship request could potentially end up being "ruder" than simply ignoring the request. You are definitely bringing it to their attention and most it's not really necessary for social media. It's not rude to ignore a friendship request or inbox message.

So to add to the other answers here:

With FaceBook people can only message you (if they are not your FaceBook friend) by sending a message request. You can read this message without accepting the request and it doesn't show up as read. If you reject the request the user who sent the message will never know, as the message just sits on their end as unread.

If the message is compelling, you may rethink the request and accept it. Some people will inbox message people when sending friendship requests.

If you decline the friendship request and they send another request, you can mark the request as spam to prevent them from sending another request.

So unless the person who has solicited the request is able to contact you in another way, there is no need to say anything, if they confront you in an inbox message about the unaccepted friendship request.

If they then contact you in another way, you can deny seeing the message. You don't need to explain why you haven't accepted.

In terms of etiquette, if a person is not in your "real life" circle of friends, it's rude of them to confront you for not accepting the friendship request. You are within your rights, as a social media user to not have contact with anyone you do not want to. That is why they have the facility to block people.

You can also have your settings to only allow friendship requests from friends of friends, which possibly won't help if people are using a community, i.e. old school class mates to network. It may prevent some more random people from soliciting invites.

From my experience, I am free about adding people I am in regular contact with on these sites. However, occasionally users from Stack Overflow (people I do not know) will track me down on FaceBook (it's not hard I use the same name and profile picture) and will inbox message me and send me a friendship request. If they pressure me to accept the friendship request, I offer no explanation, I block them. I don't regard my actions as rude, I regard theirs as rude and pushy. Now it's a different circle we are discussing here, but my boundary of who I accept on my Facebook is broader then yours, so it's a similar comparison. Except of course if you then run into them socially, in which case you can provide some of Chad's suggestions.


Being a Facebook "friend" is a privilege, not a right. But some people send out solicitations for friends to people they don't know all that well.

I would just ignore the first solicitation. Because of the above, there is a good chance that you will be lost in the shuffle.

If someone you don't know well persists, I would explain that I "friend" people I know very well.


I too am a person that never wants anyone to feel slighted if I can help it. So Facebook is one that took me a long time to feel at ease about.

So how I handle things now when I get a request is to simply accept, reject it or leave it alone if I want to think about it. I have been friend requested by literally hundreds of people I haven't accepted. I run an incredibly large group on FB that is a support group (about 25,000 members) and many people will mistake that I have spoken to them via pm or a friendly back and forth as being that I would give them access to my personal FB. I have other admins of course (lots and lots of them) and those people I do friend as they are helping run things, but I do not friend members. I also have people from my past, new people I meet, relatives I haven't seen in a long time or have barely ever known, etc, all try to friend me. I tell you all of this to say that I check my folder all the time, including the messages that have been filtered out, and to date, in over a decade of doing this, no one has ever asked me in pm or in person why I didn't accept their request. So I think you are more concerned over it than it warrants. I used to be as well, but time has taught me either people don't notice, or they really do not care all that much.


Maybe it's just me but I get "itchy" seeing notifications pile up. It's like a growing "to do" list and I want to cross things off. I have added a pretty wide array of people on facebook and I honestly feel like it's an email account that's been overrun with spam and can no longer really be used in the way originally intended. I regret not being more selective in the past. But I'm more selective now and I slowly drop people, or at the very least I click the "stay friends but don't follow Jojo" button.

So what I do these days is... I happily delete requests that I know don't want. Unlike you, though, I don't feel badly about it. I probably won't see these people and don't have to explain myself. What I *have felt a little badly about is when I meet someone new or run into someone I'm not that close to and they feel the need to end the conversation with "Are you on FB?!"

I don't want to lie, but I probably don't want to add them as a friend, either. And I don't like disappointing people, but I've learned to be direct. I'll say "Ahh Yeah (intentionally, semi loudly inhale/exhale)... I have a profile but I don't use it often, sorry." Delivered correctly, this equates to "if you try to add me, I won't be adding you back ". If I'm pressed beyond that, (like, "aw darn I'd love to keep in touch") I simply offer to exchange email addresses. And I have a separate email account that I use for these people, not connected to any social media accounts. I also give this email address to stores I shop at. It's my IDGAF email.

So if I were ever really asked in person about not accepting a friend request I would just say "oh yeah sorry about that, I just don't use FB too much and haven't been adding to it at all". How have you been? Etc and let the conversation go on. There isn't much you can do otherwise because you can't reply to a rejected friend request with a message (I don't believe anyway).

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