Facebook has many great features to help you expand your friends list, including offering possible friends and suggesting people you may know. However, what does ‘You have a new friend suggestion’ mean and why did you get a notification for it?
Facebook will suggest possible friends or another user can suggest a friend to you, meaning you get a notification that this suggested candidate is available for you to approve or deny.
Let’s look at how this system works, why you get the notifications, and whether or not you can use this system to get more friends or friend requests. We’ll also look at some of the privacy concerns behind this feature.
What Does ‘You Have a New Friend Suggestion’ Notification Mean?
Facebook is a networking and social media website, so it suggests friends to you from time to time. When Facebook has served up a possible new friend, they notify you of this via telling you there is a new friend suggestion. This is different from a friend request.
A suggested friend is someone who is not currently your friend, but because of some internal metrics they could be a good candidate for you to accept. There is also an ability for your friends to suggest friends to you.
How this works is not exactly clear, but some people have noticed some common trends and occurrences that happen to generate suggested friends. People have done a lot of research and investigations to narrow down what these are.
For example, if you’ve got a group of friends in real life, and you are all friends with each other except one member, then Facebook will make the connection and offer them as a suggested friend.
There is also a possibility that the Facebook app searches for your phone contacts or content of messages to link people together.
Facebook has stated that they use mutual friends, work and education information, networks you’re part of, contacts you’ve imported and many other factors when determining who a friend suggestion will be. Facebook compiles many things together to put it together.
Facebook doesn’t necessarily send both parties a friend suggestion notification, it is generally asymmetric, so that only one person will receive the suggestion.
Another possibility would be that Facebook is using geolocation services and suggesting friends based on the fact that both of you are found in the same places.
Another type of friend suggestion is from other users on the website. They may think that you and someone else are a good match, so they can suggest a friend to someone else. This is not Facebook making the connection per se, but an actual user.
Why Did You Get a Notification for a Friend Suggestion?
Facebook has to notify you of a friend suggestion for you to check it out and accept or deny it. Facebook doesn’t necessarily always get it right with a friend suggestion and so you may find that you don’t even know the person.
You may also have looked at someone’s profile, and then Facebook decided that because of that fact and other connections that you could possibly be friends.
Facebook is always trying to encourage people to make new connections and friends on the website based on interest, mutual friends, and location.
Facebook used to do this by suggesting people who went to the same school or workplace as you, but Facebook has moved away from this model of networking.
Activity on Facebook will also link you up with others, meaning you get a suggested friend. For example, you may leave a like or comment on a picture. That picture may be part of an album uploaded by someone else.
Facebook then scrubs through all the contacts, mutual friends, browsing habits, links and other data points that they can pull via Facebook to suggest a friend for you.
Some other possible connections could be the same WiFi network that both of you are connected to. Facebook is quite cagey about exactly what they look at when making these suggestions.
Other users of Facebook can also send you a suggested friend, for example, this is a great way for a family member to link up another family member with all the others in the family.
This will also appear as a notification, and can be ignored or accepted.
How Does ‘You Have a New Friend Suggestion’ Notification Work?
It will appear in the same location as friend requests, in the notifications pane.
You can choose to accept or deny the request, and in that sense it works almost identically like a Facebook friend request, as the other person will then receive a friend request from you.
If you want to turn it off, you can launch the Facebook app and go to Settings, go into Notifications and then Turn Off the Notifications you want to avoid such as Friend Suggestions.
If you ignore the suggested friend request, the other person (‘the suggested friend’) won’t be notified of this as it is just a one way suggestion. This is different from when someone sends a friend request, as a suggested friend is asymmetric.
However, if the suggested friend was made by another user, and they notice that you didn’t accept it when they check for whether you are friends with that person later on, they will likely realize that you have denied the request.
In the end, a suggested friend is just that, a suggestion. Facebook is not certain you know the person but based on crunching numbers, algorithmic predictions and big data mining they make an educated guess.
For every person that hits approve on such suggestions, it also tells Facebook that the way they suggested a friend in that situation is more likely than not a good suggestion, especially if the person who accepted it, meaning they will use that same logic to suggest other friends.
This also works when you deny a suggested friend request, so it is worth checking out whether the person is actually somebody you know by looking at their profile, because if you deny it then Facebook will take this into account and not suggest that same type of friend.
This could mean that you are missing out on great connections on Facebook by not taking the time to properly vet suggested friends, as they could be people that you spend a lot of time hanging out with.
Are Facebook Suggested Friends Stalking You?
One of the triggers for a suggested friend is when someone looks at a profile of someone they are not friends with. As the system has been updated and tweaked by Facebook, the contribution of ‘stalking’ to force a friend suggestion is very low.
There are so many factors going into suggested friends from both Facebook’s side, especially if someone has suggested a friend to you rather than Facebook’s algorithm.
Facebook hasn’t revealed exactly how suggested friends work, but this is very likely one of the way it works.
However, the suggested friends feature has been abused in the past by people wanting to be friends with others but knowing that if they initiate the request, the other person is likely to refuse it.
So they visit their profile constantly and check it out including all uploads or public activity, hoping Facebook will eventually send the person a friend suggestion. Facebook has tweaked the algorithm to prevent people from gaming the system like this.
This is what Facebook stalking is, and Facebook enables this as there is no way to see when someone has been on your profile, unlike other websites such as LinkedIn.
Facebook now likely looks at many other factors to find things in common before sending a friend suggestion, such as common interests, previous shared experiences like work or school, being in the same location at the same time, and other factors.
Mutual friends and interests also seem to play a big part in suggested friends. If you have ever searched for a person or a mutual friend of that person in Facebook, that will also likely give a strong link and thus give a suggested friend.
Facebook has gotten into a lot of hot water over how much user data they look at, how much they match people, and exactly what goes on behind closed doors on Facebook’s servers is not public knowledge.
From personal experience, I remember that when I logged into Facebook on my phone, after that I started getting lots of suggested friends from people I had not met yet, but were attending a bar that I would go to every week.
It was only later when I actually met them, that I recalled that it was the same person from the suggested friends. My guess is that Facebook is using both the phonebook and location services to link these people with me.
Another possibility is that the other person has just joined Facebook, and so Facebook will be more proactive in suggesting all manners of people to them.