When to say yes and how to say no to friend requests is an important life skill for youth growing up with the intensified peer pressures of social media. In his book, Hurt.20: Inside the World of Today’s Teenagers (Youth, Family, Culture), Dr. Chap Clark concludes that the modern teen, with all of the on-line connectivity to peers and family is an incredibly lonely and stressed out generation of adolescents. And according to Student Society For Science, a recent study finds that youth with too many friend connections in their social networks are at risk for increased levels of stress which floods the brain with cortisol thus impacting learning as well as quality of life and mental health.
With social media, the temptation for many teens and adults is to accumulate as many “friends” in your social network as possible, which can leave a person feeling quite empty and striving to get personal validation from a small crowd. The other vulnerability of too many friend connections is sharing too much personal information with people who are not necessarily trustworthy which can lead to abuses and manipulations of bad actors including predators, sexual exploiters and bullies. And another example of awkward social moments can happen when your teen unfriends another parent in their social network because that parent was commenting too much.
The most important thing we can do for youth is model the behavior that is going to promote a more balanced and healthy social experience, on and off line. Having clear criteria about when you will initiate and accept friend requests in your social media networks can help minimize the stress of “friending”.
When to say “yes” and how to say “no” to friending in the social network
Criteria for saying yes to and initiating friend requests:
- Establish purpose-driven sharing. What is your purpose for accepting and imitating friend requests? If it is purely social, then you probably want to keep your network limited to people with whom you have shared experiences. If you are promoting a business, then your criteria may be broader, to involve friends of friends who have a similar interest in what you are offering in your business. Keep in mind that mixing business and social purposes can create conflicts in one social media venue. For example, therapists and counselors and teachers might not want to share all of their personal information with clients and students. It might be better to have two social media profiles: one for personal and one for business. LinkedIn is a social media app that offers a great alternative to Facebook for business purposes.
- Establish a protocol for friend requesting. If you do not have a long history of social or business interaction with someone with whom you want to establish a friend connection, ask for permission via email, phone or in person.
- Accept the friend request if it is someone you know and have a real relationship with such as a family member, a classmate or teammate, a neighbor, fellowship in organizations such as scouts, clubs, etc.
- Many youth are friending kids from other student body campuses, and the same rule of thumb for accepting and initiating friend requests should apply. If you have shared experiences and a sense of affinity for an activity such as community service sports clubs, then it makes sense to accept a friend request.
Criteria for saying no:
- A friend request from someone you don’t know from personal experience, but is in the social network of a genuine friend. You can ignore the request.
- Decline requests from profiles of people you do not know (truly strangers) and be especially wary of requests from profiles with very little information in the profile. So if a profile from someone you know makes a request, but there is nothing about them in the profile, it is probably a spoof. Decline it.
- If a student from another school makes a friend request, and their only affinity is that they in the “friend” network of someone you know at your school, probably not a good idea to accept the friend request. Keep in mind, the greater the number of people you don’t really know in your social network, the greater the risk of feeling insignificant or being bullied or harassed by people who do not really have an emotional investment in your personal well being.
How to say no
- The best way to say no is to simply ignore the request. Unless you have some other social or business interaction with this individual, ignoring the request is the kind way to decline until you get more experience.
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Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on Examiner.com, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.
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Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.