I hang out on Facebook a lot. Too much, maybe. Enough, certainly, to recognize a few types of unpleasant characters. I've come across five distinctive kinds of Facebook trolls, and I'm sure you've dealt with them too. Here's some advice to stop their onslaught and make your Facebook experience just a little better.
Troll type: Old-time Nobody
Confirm or ignore? Confirm
Social networks provide a slew of opportunities to connect with old friends, but that doesn't mean you need to befriend your third-grade buddy Bill, whom you haven't had a discussion with in 20 years. Usually they mention a time in your life the two of you shared when you were kids. Maybe it's not the end of the world, but it does get a bit awkward when they remember that time and you don't.
So how should you handle the Old Time Nobody? Be friends with them and don't think twice about it. Usually, they're harmless, and either really liked you when you were younger or just want to add another person to their friends list to show off. Either way, what does it hurt? You'll hardly communicate with them through Facebook and that will probably suffice you both. Don't worry about it and add them to your own list.
Troll type: New service addict
Confirm or ignore? Ignore
They became a friend of yours on MySpace, or maybe even followed you on LiveJournal, and ever since then, they've wanted to be your friend on every social network known to man. Sometimes you catch a really serious one who signs up for all the newest services before anyone, and they immediately send out invites like they're passing out candy to kids on Halloween.
Once you get their friend request on Facebook, ignore it. I hate to say it, but it's your only option. Unless you nip it in the bud now, you'll be getting requests to be your friend on even the smallest, most ridiculous social networks, and you'll never be able to stop it. They may send you a few requests before they get the message, which is fine, but unless you want to be annoyed over the next year with more friend requests and ridiculous notifications on Facebook, it's best if you turn the other cheek.
Troll type: Bar friend
Confirm or ignore? Confirm
How many times have you met someone who is a friend of a friend at a bar or party, only to come home and see a Facebook friend request sitting in your in-box? You probably don't remember their name, and the conversation you had with them was superficial at best. It's obvious they just want to add you to their growing list of friends and you honestly believe you'll never see them again.
Sadly, they've put you in a tough position. On one hand, the term "Friend" on Facebook indicates you actually like and care about that person, i.e. they're your actual friend. On the other hand, nobody thinks of it like that, and many want to have as many "friends" as possible. On balance, it's probably best to add them as a friend and not worry about it. You're sort of friends if you want to stretch the logic, and what does it hurt? You both get to add one more friend to your running total and it won't be awkward next time you see them at the bar.
Troll type: The stranger
Confirm or ignore? Think first
It happens to all of us: someone we don't know tries to be our friend on Facebook. Their profile claims they graduated from the same college and they live in your general area. You know you've never met the person and even if you did, it was for a fleeting second and you don't remember them at all.
Dealing with these people should be easy; just ignore them. But doing that without thinking could be a fatal mistake. What if you really do know the person and you forgot? That makes for an awkward reunion if you two ever see each other again. Simply deciding to ignore them probably isn't the best move, but then again, if you really don't know them, you probably shouldn't follow them to satisfy their desire to have the highest number of friends in their group. Decide carefully.
Troll type: The ghost
Confirm or ignore? Remove
Once you've become friends with people on Facebook, I think you enter into an agreement of sorts: you both decide to interact with each other and, most importantly, you both decide to use the service. But when your friends don't hold up their end of the bargain, it gets annoying, doesn't it? They sign up for the service, add friends during the first week, and never go back. They don't have a profile picture and the only information that's filled out in their profile is their name and birth date. They're a member, but not really.
When it comes to handling those people, it's best to remove them from your friends list. Sure, you'll lose a friend too, but don't you think they need to pay the price for agreeing to use the service and not following through? Call me old fashioned, but if someone decides to sign up for a social network, I'm a firm believer that they should use it for a reasonable amount of time and do their best to enhance the overall experience for everyone. If they're not holding up their end, they shouldn't be encouraged. A social network is all about interaction. If a friend doesn't want to interact, they shouldn't be on Facebook.