Facebook is approaching that point of critical mass when it will soon completely converge onto our so-called real lives and everyone we know in First Life will also be people we are linked to on Facebook Life. As we lurch forward into this future, you will get Facebook friend requests from people who... eh, well, people who you might be trying to avoid when you're making weekend plans.
Sometimes you may even get friend requests from people who you actually don't mind so much out there in the real world yet still aren't exactly sure how you feel about when it comes to letting them in on your Facebook life. That meditation is preposterous and even causes one to question why you may consider these people friends or acquaintances in the first place, but it's a regular meditation people go through nonetheless. For better or worse, these are the dramatic days of our Facebook lives.
If you ignore or, more boldly, decline these Facebook friend requests, it will inevitably come back to haunt you. I have more than one first-hand experience in this unfortunate circumstance and, trust me, when someone mentions to you face-to-face that they sent you a friend request that you never replied to, there is little you can say that isn't easily translated as, "That's because I don't actually like you that much." The moment passes quickly enough yet it is an awkward moment all the same.
Facebook, in what I imagine was a way to reconcile a user's dilemma while also trying to maintain the high number of relationships that the site likes to boast about with their statistics, offers a feature that permits users to unsubscribe to users so you never need to unfriend somebody just to avoid seeing their updates. More, you can always create a filter that will cast out into the Land of Nod those slightly less-than-desirable Facebook friends and block them from seeing any of your "real" information on your account.
But lord, that's a lot of work just to maintain a pleasant social face, isn't it? If Facebook really is becoming an outward extension of our personal lives, maybe it's time to start acting as such and not worry about rejecting people on the site (especially if we don't worry so much about rejecting them in the real world). To perhaps assist your forage into this brave new world, College Humor put together a helpful infographic that details the step-by-step consideration you should apply whenever someone requests your friendship on Facebook and you aren't immediately certain what the best plan of response should be. While the infographic's primary purpose is to entertain, there's also some pertinent information to take away from this - especially if the friend requester happens to be an ex that broke your heart during your sophomore year of college.
So now: sally forth, young and elder Facebookers alike, and screw your courage to the sticking-place when you know that clicking that "Not Now" button (which used to be called "Decline," but Facebook's still trying to groom us all into decent people - won't work!) is the right thing to do.