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Dear Abby: Please Be My Friend!

Our etiquette guru Abby Johnston is back with more advice for you ill-mannered hoodlums.  This time, she lays down the unspoken rules of the Facebook friend request.

Your number of friends on Facebook is an easily located statistic that shows anyone who cares enough to look essentially how popular you are. Thus, proving your popularity through acquiring as many friends as possible is important to at least some (if not the vast majority) of you. This issue brings us to this week’s topic of discussion: When is it appropriate to “friend” someone? Does the time span vary depending on the situation in which you meet someone? Is it ever appropriate to request someone you’ve never actually met?

Let’s start with the last question first, as it is the most pressing. Unless it is someone who, at the very least, knows a lot about you through amusing anecdotes or with whom you will be sharing some sort of experience (trip, class, birthday party, etc.) in the near future: no. The one exception to this rule is the summer before freshman year, when everyone reassures himself that he will survive college, maybe even thrive there, by friending a lot of other random freshmen. Creeping on a friend’s pictures, seeing one of his acquaintances that you find attractive (even though that person is from Bosnia or elsewhere that makes actually meeting her an unlikely event) and then friending her? Questionable at best.

Otherwise, I find a good solid rule is the following: If you would greet the person you would like to request on the street, Facebook friendship is completely acceptable. If you would not even throw out a casual head nod because they may not return it: unacceptable. After all, there’s nothing worse than recognizing a Facebook friend and feeling like an ass because you know they have no idea who you are.