When popular social networking sites first debuted on the
Internet, there were few - if any - privacy controls placed on users' profiles.
This meant that anyone could view your online profile and read all of your
personal details. It didn't take long for the users of these websites to begin
demanding more privacy; in response, the makers of websites like MySpace began
offering the option to make private profiles, which were only viewable by
approved parties. Once this feature was made available, more people than ever
before began using social networking sites.
Along with a demand for private profiles, many social networking site users began clamoring for stricter controls regarding friend requests. The reason for this demand lay largely in the annoying phenomenon of receiving frequent requests from completely unknown people. While some people use social networking to make new friends or for dating purposes, the vast majority use it to stay connected with the people who they already know. A friend request from a complete stranger is not a very welcome occurrence for many people.
Why Random Friend Requests Are A Problem
The practice of sending random, unsolicited friend requests to complete strangers is largely frowned upon among the vast majority of social networking sites. A big reason for this is the proliferation of spam friend requests that have occurred in the past; certain companies and disreputable websites have been known to send out thousands of random friend requests in an attempt to garner attention. As more and more people have encountered this phenomenon, more and more have become wary of receiving requests from people who they do not know.
If a person sends out random friend requests strictly to meet new people, this is viewed as strange in and of itself. Sites like Facebook are not really geared toward expanding one's social circle, but are more for keeping connected with one's existing set of friends and family. Therefore, most people who receive random friend requests from strangers promptly delete the request and move on.
When friend requests are used for business purposes, people are even less receptive - and can become incredibly annoyed. Such requests are essentially the same as cold calls in the telemarketing world, and are usually considered to be just as annoying. As the people using social networking websites becomes more savvy, they are less and less likely to accept such random, business-oriented friend requests; at the same time, marketers are bound to become more and more creative in their efforts.
Friend Request Etiquette
In cases where you genuinely want to reconnect with an old friend who may or may not remember you, it is important to do so in a way that will not alienate them and make them deny your request out of hand. The best way to achieve that goal is by including a brief note along with the friend request, explaining who you are, how you know the person and why you want to connect with them. This way, they can make an educated determination about whether or not they want to accept your request.
Adding an explanation to your friend request also helps alleviate the alienating feeling of getting a request from a random stranger on the Internet. Keeping it short and to the point will increase the likelihood of it being taken seriously. By following this protocol, you are much less likely to annoy friends, colleagues and associates online.