November 30, 2010

Unfriended. When the "Social Network" Leaves You Feeling Disconnected.

I got an email from a former classmate last week. It went something like this, "Dear All (a group of 25 or so people), For all intents and purposes, I'm quitting Facebook. If you want to get in touch with me, email me at this address."

No problem. She recently taken a break from Facebook. I figured she came back and realized she was tired of it. I was disappointed that I'd miss her rippingly funny remarks and the cute updates she posted about her her kids. We don't live close so it's how I kept up with her.

Then yesterday, she showed up in my news feed when she "Liked" a friend's comment. "Yay!" I thought, "She's back!"- and promptly proceeded to make some silly remark.

I decided to hop over to her page to see if she'd posted anything new. I typed her name in the search box - but didn't see her.Weird. So, I clicked her name where she'd "Liked" my friend's comment. There she was! Oh. I just wasn't in the friend list anymore. And, I'd been blocked - because I couldn't actually find her when I looked. Wow.

I have no idea what my friend's reason was for un-friending me and a bunch of other people in such a cryptic way. Maybe she was felt overwhelmed of the constant status updates. Maybe she feels it's voyeuristic. It's completely her choice who she friends and un-friends. And, although it hurt, I really do love this person and genuinely respect her right to make that decision for herself.

However, the experience caused me to think a little bit about how we use social media like FB to connect with friends, business associates, former lovers, acquaintances, random people who found us on Twitter... How those connections or disconnections affect us. Social media can be a bit overwhelming at times. A little revealing, vulnerable. Sometimes painful. Kinda like a social land mine.

Naturally, I have a few thoughts on the subject. ;-)

1. Contrary to some of the opinions I've seen posited online, FB is not the work of the devil. After all, just like every other delectable possible addiction - like chocolate, sex, vampire novels or great TV shows, it's best to use these powers for good rather than avoid them completely. I know some of you are secretly shouting, "Yes! Team Edward!!!!" Crazy vampire people.       (p.s. Team Jacob!!)

2. FB is just another tool that allows us to connect with people (or not) - like a phone, email, snail mail - at whatever level we feel comfortable. We choose who we "friend" and we choose what we post (just like in "real" life - except this is in writing and it moves pretty fast so you can't take it back).

3. FB shouldn't take the place of actual face-to-face human interaction. Unless, you haven't had any adult contact for 24 hours because you've been holed up with sick kids and didn't even think of chatting on the phone till after 10:30 pm. Then, it's a heck of a lot better than nothing.

4. FB is great for catching up with old friends and possibly making new ones. I love finding or being found by  friends from days and places past and looking at pics of them or their sweet kids - small or grown. I even love the day to day minutia that sometimes gets posted. It's the stuff life is made of. Unless the minutia includes details of trips to the bathroom. We have enough of that around here without having to read about it. Eeew.

5. The variable number of one's Facebook friends should not cause serious internal debate about said person's value or cause long term social concerns. This one stings sometimes right? Being un-friended kinda stinks. But - chances are - if someone unfriends you, you weren't that close anyway. And that's ok.

6.  A little honesty goes a long way. If by some chance you feel the need to trim your Facebook page, you've every right to do so. Just don't say you're quitting and let some unsuspecting friend stumble over the fact that he just didn't "make the list".

Most importantly, even though our only connection to many of our Facebook "friends" is online and seems  somewhat impersonal, remember, it's not. You know that old saying, "It's not personal. It's just business."? Yeah. It's like that - and it's always personal. Remember, there's still a live human on the other end of that internet connection. Treat them with the same regard for their feelings that you'd use in "real" life. Unless you're kind of a jerk. Then - be nicer. :)

In real life, there's no un-friend button. You have to do it old school.


  1. i love this. so many of my arty friends just left FB and it left me feeling a little disjointed and confused about it all. why? i really like what it does for me. and as i respect them and their perspectives, i had to take a look at why i was there in the first place.

    so refreshing to hear someone talk about the merits of it rather than all the bashing that seems to go on lately.

  2. love your blog, you raise some interesting questions. The biggest thing for me is the time it takes, I just have the feeling I need to get back to real life. Thank you, great post!


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