Beware of the friend requests you never sent

By Nina Steele 

Social media friendsImagine getting a notification informing you that a complete stranger has just accepted your friend request, knowing that you never sent the said request in the first place? That’s what happened to me on Facebook and continues to happen, even after I flagged the issue up.

I did a quick search online after I was first faced with this problem, only to find that many people have had the same experience and have been complaining about it for years. On the face of it, it comes across as not a big deal. But when you are a woman on social media, already getting unsolicited messages from men trying to chat you up, it matters.

The first time I became aware of it, I immediately contacted the person, a man, to tell him that it was a mistake and that I never sent the request. I promptly unfriended him. I immediately flagged it up with Facebook and have since been checking my ‘view sent requests’ folder regularly just in case the issue persists. I didn’t even know that folder existed until recently!

For about a month, nothing happened. I was relieved and thought that the issue had been resolved, even though I had not received a reply from Facebook telling me that this was the case. In fact, I didn’t hear back from them at all. Normally, after filing a complaint, you get an automatic box that opens to acknowledge receipt and let you know what you can expect next. No such thing happened in this instance. Yet I chose to believe that maybe they did something and didn’t bother to get in touch.

Well, it turns out I was wrong. The issue, it seems, is not going away any time soon. The same thing happened again a few days ago. Whatever the flaw is in their system, it seems that Facebook is yet to get on top of it.

In case anyone is asking, closing my account is not an option. I may not agree with a lot of what goes on, on Facebook, particularly how it is being used by far-right groups to spread disinformation, but I still value it as a platform. For one thing, most of my African relatives are on there, meaning that I get to communicate with them via messages. And of course, I started using Facebook to promote my website, and even though it stopped being my main source of traffic a while ago, it is still at the top of my list when it comes to searching for content ideas.

In future, I won’t bother contacting anyone to explain that it wasn’t me who sent them a request. I will just delete it as I did a few days ago. The initial shock and anger is wearing off. I am now in the acceptance phase. Since I am choosing to stay on the platform, I have to accept the things that I am unable to change. I guess it is one of the prices we pay for the platform being free to use. Well, it’s not really free, is it? Data is now considered more valuable than oil. That’s a discussion for another day.

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