For a little over two years, I have been a part of a big and wonderful place of cyber-belonging called Facebook. And in those two years, I have “unfriended” exactly one person. Granted, I did unfriend that same person at two different points in time, but never-the-less, only one individual has warranted an unfriending. Yet somehow I’ve been unfriended numerous times, which makes me think that I like people much more than they like me in return. Although I don’t have the hard stats in front of me, I’m well aware that my I-was-unfriended/I-unfriended-someone ratio is not good. Once, about a year ago, I sat down and looked at all the relationships I’d ever been in, and determined that my got-dumped/did-the-dumping ratio was a pitiful 10:1. The most humiliating part of that is I’ve only been in 11 relationships.
Last week alone, I was Facebook unfriended by three people. My “friend” count went from 269 to 266. I shook my head, knowing that I would now have to find three other people to send friend requests to. My friend number had to be balanced back out, obviously. Maybe those folks from high school who kept popping up on the “People You May Know” list would have to finally be friended. You know who I’m talking about – the dude you vaguely remember, who shares like 45 mutual friends with you, and who you’ve sort of been in a friend-request blinking contest with. I’d look at that person’s profile pic and think, “If he sends me friend request, fine…but I’m NOT sending that loser one!” Seeing that I had lost three friends in a week, I was suddenly feeling nostalgic.
Going back to the one person I unfriended, I think it’s important to state that I told her both times that I would be unfriending her. The unfriending was not done in a covert fashion, as most seem to prefer. Oh no – I did my unfriending ethically. She didn’t have to go on her news feed and think, “Where are Bill’s status updates,” and then slowly and in horror realize that the unfriending had taken place. It seems only ethically right to send the person a message before committing the evil deed. I’m not even saying that the unfriending party has to offer an explanation, just an acknowledgement that, hey, it’s time to say so long. I’ve enjoyed your photos, “liked” a few of your comments, and now I feel I need to move on.
Now, I don’t think the “unfriending message” has to always happen. Sometimes it’s obvious why someone unfriends me – like in the case of the one girl I dumped. But other times, I’ve been the victim of a shock unfriending. Just recently, I found a former co-worker, the art teacher from my old school, on the “People You May Know” page. I had no idea she had unfriended me. Why on earth did this happened? Was I culled? Did I say something offensive? Did I post too many status updates? Maybe she was on an ego trip and was just axing people randomly for her own satisfaction. It’s a mystery that will never be solved because, right now, silent unfriending is an acceptable norm.
I remember when I was a kid, there was a boy named Eddie Snyder who was a bit rough with my toys. It was hard, but I had to tell Eddie that our friendship was over. Did I feel awkward? Sure I did. Eddie understood though – it was for the sake of the toys. In real human relations, there’s the understanding that saying goodbye is a part of the game. No one likes to do it, but we realize that it’s the right thing to do. The question, I guess, is: Do we consider Facebook relationships so trivial that normal rules of friendship don’t apply? It’ll be interesting to see what the answer to that is in the future. And, if that answer is ‘no,’ does that mean unfriending messages become the norm, or do goodbyes become a thing of the past, an artform abandoned for silent retreat?