I was clicking through some pictures on Facebook this morning, from the time we were in Ethiopia almost five years ago. I’ve got Ethiopia on the brain even more than usual because we’re revisiting all of those international adoption documents again — immigration, birth certificates, marriage licenses, etc. And I noticed that one of my friends, who commented on those long-ago photos, was no longer my “friend” on Facebook. I was puzzled. Sure, we don’t see each other that much any more, but I’m fond of her and want to keep up with her life. I assumed it was the same for her.
So I wrote her about it. And she told me that she had relocated, and shaved off 30 friends. It wasn’t personal.
I know much has been said and written about Facebook friends, and “friends.” I’ve written a little something myself. I have plenty of Facebook friends who are “friends” — people I rarely see and probably wouldn’t have much to say to in real life. And maybe my finger has hesitated over the “Unfriend” selection once or twice. But it doesn’t cost me anything to have these people as “friends.” So I keep them.
Unfriending is, after all, unfriendly. It says to that person: “Yeah, I accepted your friend request (or you accepted mine), but now, I want you OUT OF MY LIFE.” Sometimes, that’s exactly what you want. I’ve unfriended a few folks in my day — usually around election time, or when there’s a school shooting. I unfriended a bunch of former colleagues about a year ago, because I intended to set up a Facebook personal account and a Facebook work account. (I never did. Upon reflection, it seemed like entirely too much social media.)
But here’s the thing, those of you with itchy defriending fingers: If you’ve decided that someone isn’t a friend on Facebook, you’re sending the message that they’re not your friend in real life, either. And yes, that is personal. So defriend wisely, dear readers. The feelings you hurt might be those of a friend. A real one.