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Summary: after graduation, I sent my professor a friend request on Facebook, but didn't have response for a few days. I feel really bad and I really want to apologize.


I just graduated and I have taken several classes in the last few semesters with a certain professor. As time passed, we developed a great relationship where I felt comfortable going to her office hours and asking questions about class and advice about life after graduation. She wrote a recommendation letter for me for grad school and overall she really had a positive impact on me and I made sure to let her know that after the very last class. I asked if we could stay in touch after finals and she agreed. So after graduation, I sent her a friend request on Facebook and it became clear to me after several days that she did not want to do that. I believe she just preferred to stay in touch through email. I feel really bad and I really want to apologize, but I'm not sure how to go about it. Any advice I can get would be appreciated because she was a huge part of my undergrad journey and I really want to make this right if possible.

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  • 40
    it became clear to me after several days that she did not want to do that How did it become clear?
    – WoJ
    May 29, 2023 at 16:33
  • 6
    Could you confirm the age and gender of the professor and yourself; they might be playing a part in the dynamics of the situation.
    – Brondahl
    May 30, 2023 at 8:36
  • 1
    Relevant from the other side: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/1539/… May 30, 2023 at 11:42

7 Answers 7

83

I wouldn't worry about it. It is partly a generational thing. I don't use things like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or a host of others. OTOH, my son rarely reads email.

I don't think you need to do anything and no apology is needed. But if you want to stay in touch, use tools that both are comfortable with.

It is always nice, however, when students thank their professors for helping them on the journey.

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    My Facebook account was solely to see what my kids had publically available (I wasn't "friends" with them). Now one is in cyber security - go figure...
    – Jon Custer
    May 30, 2023 at 2:11
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    It might be worth noting that it's very possible the apology would be more uncomfortable than the initial request. May 30, 2023 at 18:50
57

You should not apologize, as you have not committed any faux pas.

It may be as others suggested that she does not use Facebook often, but it is also likely that it's not the first time, and she has settled on some policy regarding accepting requests from (former) students. You have no way of knowing that policy in advance, so you did nothing wrong by sending a request. I don't think it puts her in an uncomfortable situation; defining and maintaining professional boundaries is a part of the job.

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It's entirely possible, if not the most probable reason, she simply hasn't seen your FB request. A lot of people just phase out of using social media or only do periodic visits.

On the flip side, her accepting your FB request would open a bit more of her private life to you (photos, friends, love interests, posts, political opinions, religion), etc... She may not be comfortable with having you in this space.

The alternative would be to see if she has a profile on LinkedIn and connect with her that way. LinkedIn is targeted more towards professional relationships, career accomplishments, and job searching. The posts rarely cross into non-work related stuff.

Regardless, don't take it personally. There's nothing to apologize for. But whatever you do. Do not follow up or approach her to her to ask, "why haven't you accepted my FB request yet?" That's awkward for anyone to answer, regardless of the reason.

Otherwise, stay in touch over email. But do realize you aren't her only student.

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You seem to waay overthink it.

A friend request is just a question: do you want to be connected on Facebook? I don't see why would asking this be inappropriate, regardless the medium.

Besides, people send and deny friend request every now-and-then without thinking too much about it. It's completely normal. She either didn't even realize yours yet, or didn't want to accept it. Some prefer to only be connected with close friends. Some use SM rarely. No problem at all. She probably doesn't even remember it anymore. Just let it go and keep using to emails. You didn't do anything wrong.

This has no reflection on your personal relationship at all. Why do you think othervise?

6

It's most likely that your professor gets tons of friend requests on Facebook every week. So, she simply ignores all of them because she is too busy with teaching, work, researches, meetings, conferences, etc... (BTW, some of these FB requests may even be from spasm, hackers, or pranksters, which should definitely be ignored.)

There is no need for you either to take it personal or to apologize. I don't think you offend her or make her feel uncomfortable in any way.

You still can follow her on Facebook to get updated on her events if you want to.

If she prefers email communication only, that should be efficient enough. The reason is that email is private and fast between the senders and receivers, which may allow you to concentrate on the main topics very quickly (such as researches, grants, academic advice,...)

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Did you try it on with your teacher? The best thing to do is just withdraw the friend request it will blow over. Just keep in contact through email like you have been doing

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I feel really bad and I really want to apologize

Why do you feel bad and why do you wanna apologize? You're really sure you've put her in uncomfortable position? But if you're sure, maybe you should send an email message to your ex-professor and tell her about your thoughts.

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    True, if the OP is sure. But it seems very unlikely to me. May 31, 2023 at 9:28

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