Social Media

Facebook Friend Requests: Unwritten Rules and Hidden Settings

Tina Sieber Updated 10-12-2019

Facebook friend requests are delicate. Inappropriate attempts to expand your network could get you blocked from adding more Facebook friends. Maybe it already happened to you and you can’t friend someone on Facebook.


On Facebook, innocent mistakes and ignorance of essential Facebook etiquette can lead to drastic consequences. But with our tips on how to manage Facebook friend requests, you can avoid facing unintentional punishment or lift an existing block and continue making many new friends.

How to Add Friends on Facebook

Here is a little refresher on the basics of adding friends for those of you not too familiar with Facebook. Everyone else, please skip ahead.

The Facebook Friend Requests Menu

When logged into Facebook, you can see your pending friend requests via the Friends icon in the top right. If you have unseen friend requests pending, you will also see a red number overlaying the icon, indicating how many people have requested to friend you.

Facebook menu bar

Click the icon to expand a menu that shows all pending Friend Requests and a list of People You May Know.


Facebook Friend Request menu

Click Confirm to add a friend or Delete Request to deny the request. The sender won’t be notified.

How to Send and Cancel a Friend Request on Facebook

You can also search for people you know, open their profiles, and—if they accept friend requests from the public or friends of friends—add them by clicking the +1 Add Friend button located right next to their name.

Facebook Add Friend button


To cancel a friend request, go back to their profile, hover over the button that now reads +1 Friend Request Sent and select Cancel Request from the menu.

Facebook Friend Request Sent menu

You can also remove a friend via their profile or your Friends list. Facebook does not notify people if you remove them. However, it is possible to track your Facebook friends with third-party tools Are You Being Unfollowed? Check With These Apps and Plugins In my opinion, one of the best things Facebook ever did was to let users "unfriend" each other without any notifications. There have been numerous examples where I’ve regretted "friending" someone, and I’ve avoided tons... Read More and receive alerts when people remove you.

Unfollowing vs. Unfriending

Rather than unfriending people who are flooding your News Feed with silly posts, try unfollowing them instead. That way you can maintain your sanity, without risking the loss of a friendship. For more information read our primer on following and unfollowing What Is Unfollow and Follow on Facebook? (And When to Use It) Here's everything you need to know about Facebook followers, and following and unfollowing people on Facebook. Read More .


From your News Feed (Home) find a post from your overactive friend, click the arrowhead in the top right to expand the post menu, and click Unfollow. If you think the hyperactivity is only temporary, you can also snooze their messages for 30 days.

Facebook Unfollow friend

Alternatively, head to your friend’s profile, expand the menu right next to your friendship status, and select Unfollow from the bottom.

Facebook See First menu


Unwritten Facebook Friend Request Rules

Now that you understand the basics of how to add friends on Facebook, let’s review some finer details of managing Facebook friend requests.

Only Add People You Know

Facebook only wants you to add people you know in real life. If your friend requests frequently remain unanswered or even if just one person reports your friend request as unwanted, Facebook may conclude that you have sent friend requests that violate its Community Standards. Consequently, Facebook might block you from sending friend requests for some time.

To avoid being blocked from adding friends, follow these guidelines:

  • Make it easy for people to recognize you, so set a genuine profile photo and use your real name.
  • Try to add only people with whom you have mutual Facebook friends.
  • Send your desired contact a message introducing yourself before you add them.

In other words: don’t look like a fake account, don’t add random strangers, and don’t be a stranger yourself.

Add Friends Conservatively

You will often want to add a new friend immediately, even though you don’t have mutual friends on Facebook. And it might be more awkward to send a message first than to add them directly. That’s cool. Just be sure you don’t add too many people without common friends at once simply to expand your Facebook reach.

If you don’t know someone, just want to know what they post to Facebook, and if there is an option to follow them, give that preference over adding them as a friend. This allows you to see what they are up to, but your Timeline is not shared with them.

Report Spammy Friend Requests

When you delete a friend request, Facebook promises that the sender won’t be notified. But they might send you a new request. If you can’t get rid of them, you can use the Mark as Spam button—which comes up after you delete their request—to block further friend requests from that person.

Facebook Mark as Spam button for deleted friend requests

Keep in mind that if you do this, the person may be penalized.

Review Friend Requests You Have Sent

Feeling conscious about maybe having sent too many friend requests yourself? Go ahead and double-check.

Click the Friends icon at the top, click Find Friends, and click View Sent Requests. From here you can cancel pending requests.

Friend Requests Sent list

Block Friend Requests From Strangers

Facebook allows you to restrict who can send you a friend request. Not setting that limit is an open invitation for anyone to request your friendship. If you’re receiving too many friend requests from strangers, here’s how you can stop it.

From the Friend Requests menu in the top right, click Settings and choose Everyone or Friends of Friends from the drop-down menu.

Facebook Friend Request Setting

Alternatively, click the arrowhead in the top-right to expand the Facebook menu, select Settings > Privacy, and under Who can contact me? click Edit and select Everyone or Friends of Friends.

Facebook Who can send you friend requests?

Hide Your Friends List and Friend Activity

Allowing everyone to see who you’ve friended could cause some people to be jealous and subject your friends to unsolicited friend requests. It’s best to restrict who can see your Friends list and friend activity.

To hide your Friends list, expand the Facebook menu from the top right and select Activity Log. In the left-hand menu, click More underneath Comments to expand all Facebook sections. Click Friends to browse all activities related to adding, accepting, and removing friends. Here, you can further refine your privacy settings by choosing who can see your Friends list and where your friend activity will show up.

In the top-right, you’ll see a note saying Who can see your friend list? Click the Settings icon to its right to expand a list of options. The explanation hidden under [?] could help you decide which setting is right for you.

Facebook Who can see your friend list?

Furthermore, you can fine-tune where your friend activity can show up. Click the message icon to the right of the Friends menu to see your options.

Facebook Friend activity can show up in... menu

This setting allows you to friend someone and hide it from your status updates. You can also hide friends on Facebook How to Hide Friends on Facebook You probably have Facebook friends you're not really friends with any more. Here's how to hide friends on Facebook. Read More .

Why Can’t I Friend Someone on Facebook?

If you can’t seem to friend someone on Facebook, here are the most likely reasons.

You Sent an Unsuccessful Friend Request

You already sent a friend request and it’s either still pending or the recipient deleted it. Now the Add Friend button doesn’t show up, so you can’t send a new friend request.

If your request was deleted, Facebook has blocked you from sending that person another friend request for one whole year. The only way to get around this is to ask the other person to send you a friend request.

If your request is still pending (follow our instructions under “Review Friend Requests You Have Sent” above), you could send your friend-to-be a message and ask them to approve your request.

You Blocked the Other Person

You can’t friend someone you’ve blocked. See if you can unblock them (here’s how to unblock someone on Facebook How to Unblock Someone on Facebook If you've ever blocked a person on Facebook and then changed your mind about it, here's how to unblock someone on Facebook. Read More ) and then try sending a new friend request.

They Don’t Permit Friend Requests From Strangers

As outlined above, Facebook allows you to restrict who can send you a friend request. If that’s the reason you can’t friend someone, ask them to send you a friend request instead.

Someone Has Too Many Friends Already

Neither you, nor your friend-to-be, can have more than 5,000 friends. If one of you has crossed that limit, you can’t send each other friend requests.

If you have too many friends, consider turning your account into a Facebook Page.

Facebook Blocked You From Sending Friend Requests

This can happen if you send too many friend requests at once, have many unanswered friend requests, or if several people marked your requests as spam.

According to the Facebook Help Center, Facebook cannot lift a block early, but fortunately, it’s only temporary and will expire within a few days. Follow our guidelines above to avoid this from happening again.

Master Your Facebook Friendships

Friend requests on Facebook remain awkward. Whether you add your best friend, someone you know from school, your mom, or your boss, as far as Facebook is concerned everyone is a “friend”.

However, Facebook does acknowledge various levels of friendship. After all, you can sort your friends into close friends, family, acquaintances, or any other custom list you create.

Have you cleaned up your Friends list recently? If not, it may be time to start deleting Facebook friends 5 Reasons Why You Should Start Deleting Facebook Friends Once upon a time, Facebook was all about adding; more social used to equal more fun. Not anymore. Now it's all about deleting. Read More for your own sanity.

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  1. Morten
    August 26, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    If I've marked some friend request as spam - and later want to check the list of those marked as spam and maybe remove some from the spam list - is that possible?

  2. Oppyjean
    July 17, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Looking for new messenger, thank you for the info below! Now I run Utopia beta (messenger, wallet and e-mail all-in-one), the core feature is secure data transfer. Highly recommend!

  3. dragonmouth
    June 24, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    "On Facebook, innocent mistakes can lead to drastic consequences."
    Ain't that the truth! Just by making the innocent mistake of getting an FB account, you are exposing yourself to a whole world of hurt, literal and figurative. I wonder who has more data on people, Facebook or the NSA?

  4. IM
    May 25, 2019 at 8:23 pm

    I still can not figure out how to mark my husband as a husband. He is marked as a friend. Facebook does not even provide that option!

  5. Joanne
    May 2, 2019 at 10:15 pm

    and if you forget your email or passwords to log in, how can you get that account deleted, because I'm assuming you can't get back in if you don't know which email you used. I have had this problem. I have so many emails-I honestly can't remember which one I used, so I just made a new account, but still... I'd like to delete that one.

  6. Joanne
    May 2, 2019 at 10:13 pm

    I was trying to find out:
    if you can find out when YOU sent a friend request AFTER they have already accepted.
    I'm thinking you can't.

  7. Bill
    November 20, 2018 at 6:17 am

    You don't have to know the people that you are friending. But if there are mutual, Facebook won't send you any warnings or block you from friending. The hard friend limit is 5000 people. Random friending among special interests of people with something in common is done all the time. Once people start getting mutuals, they start friending the mutuals. Frankly I like to keep my friend count under 200, but I occasionally go looking for new people to connect with. For that I just add a few of Facebook's friend suggestions.

    July 29, 2018 at 1:48 am

    I was trying to find where I can put out a friend request.

  9. Barb LeClair
    February 7, 2018 at 11:16 pm

    I deleted my husband Charles LeClair by mistake and want to add him back to my contact list. I CAN't, please help me. He wants to add me also Barb Leclair, but can;t

    • Tina Sieber
      February 17, 2018 at 4:21 am

      Are you each other's block list?

  10. Julian
    November 16, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Personally and within reason, I dont see an issue with adding friend requests from strangers. I believe it's an essential part of networking and is partly what the internets all about, connecting with like minded individuals around the globe and learning their ways and cultures.
    One question I do have is, is there a way I can send a custom message automatically as soon as someone accepts my friend request?

    • Tina Sieber
      November 20, 2017 at 4:21 am

      I know they have this feature for automatically responding to messages sent to a Facebook page. But on a private profile and for friend requests, no, not that I know of.

  11. Sophia
    November 12, 2017 at 4:10 pm

    Is is okay to accept more than a thousand friend requests in a day? I don't mind adding unknown people.

    • Tina Sieber
      November 13, 2017 at 10:46 pm

      Accepting friend requests en masse shouldn't be an issue. Note that if you expect this to happen on a regular basis, you should create a Facebook page. Facebook has put a limit on how many friends you can accept and it's somewhere around 10,000.

  12. West Derwin
    October 31, 2017 at 9:22 pm

    facebook is evil. People: Wake up and ditch facebook. I promise you that your lives will get better and be more fulfilling. Our teenage kids do not want anything to do with facebook. Let's learn from them!!!

    • Tina Sieber
      November 1, 2017 at 5:08 pm

      Thank you for your comment! I'm seriously curious: What are your teenage kids using instead? Are they using Snapchat, WhatsApp, or other social media apps? What do you recommend to replace Facebook with?

      I think Facebook is as good as you make it. I hear people complaining about all the spite and evil on Facebook, but that's not my experience at all. I have curated my Newsfeed to only include friends, family, and pages who are respectful and who I care to hear from. I block content (including ads) I don't like and I "unfollow" people who only post annoying or offensive content. I also don't engage in negative groups. Hence, my Facebook experience is overwhelmingly positive. My Newsfeed is peaceful and the groups I'm a member of are constructive and helpful.

      I realize that I have crafted my own "social media bubble", which possibly is an "echo chamber". But at least it's a supportive and constructive environment. Actually, I get a lot of inspiration from my Facebook friends; things I would not have seen or thought about otherwise.

  13. Kalene
    September 2, 2017 at 1:23 am

    Why doesn't a request go through if it's a real life friend and you have friends in common and this is the first attempt at a request

  14. john
    August 31, 2017 at 4:32 pm

    If I already did the "Mark as Spam" a friend request from a strange person and he is not able to "add as friend" me anymore, does this action have limit time? I mean: Does the "add as friend"become active anymore in future or permanently disabled?

    • Tina Sieber
      August 31, 2017 at 5:20 pm

      It should remain disabled permanently, at least until you remove them from your block list. This doesn't prevent them from opening a new account though.