She likes me. She likes me not.
These are the words one can say to themselves when they’ve found out a long-time friend has decided to cut the digital cord on Facebook.
As a social media enthusiast and digital cheerleader, embracing technology and reconnecting with friends from nursery school through long lost loves on Facebook and social media has been the best digital gift I could ever ask for.
While I encourage singles who are experiencing a recent breakup to do their digital housekeeping (i.e.: unfriend your ex, untag photos and yes, block him or her), so they can move onto a healthy relationship without obsessing about their ex, there’s another type of unfriending that’s been going on and it can really hurt — Getting dumped by a platonic friend when you don’t see it coming.
I’ve had the experience of being unfriended twice by whom I thought were close friends on Facebook. The first time this happened to me years ago, I was heartbroken. I called my friend of 20 years and begged for forgiveness on a silly misunderstanding about where we were sitting at a garden party. It was hot out and I didn’t think it mattered where we sat. Frankly her behavior was uncalled for and I felt she was acting like an immature brat. Still, it hurt.
As one who takes the high road, I called to apologize for upsetting her, cried on the phone, asked her why she’d do such a thing, and begged her to reconsider friending me again. A month later, she sent me a friend request and we attempted to pick up where we left off. But did we really? I had to ask myself, how could someone be so childish as to unfriend someone they’ve known for decades? What would come next? Would I not get invited to her birthday party? It was the beginning of the end of our friendship, as a few years later I was not invited to her son’s engagement party, the wedding shower, or the wedding festivities which were posted all over Facebook. I saw who was invited and who wasn’t. I got moved to the B list after the first unfriending episode and I politely changed my Facebook settings on her profile from “friend” to “acquaintance.” I realized then, as I should have before, that if a grown adult is going to diss a girlfriend on Facebook and call a power play by unfriending someone over seating at a party, maybe I just didn’t want to be friends with this person after all.
The second time I got unfriended it was a double whammy. Not only did this long-time person unfriend me, but she blocked me as well. I would spend hours every weekend hearing about her disastrous dates, while encouraging her to give a guy a second chance. Suddenly I no longer existed on Facebook. She chose to make sure that I would no longer see her Facebook activity and that she didn’t see any of mine.
What led up to this ridiculous unfriending act was the fact that she invited herself to join my boyfriend and I at a concert. It was our official date night which we cherished and had planned a romantic picnic for the two of us months earlier. It clearly wasn’t a girls’ night out, which I explained over-and-over again to my friend who wanted to tag along. My guy and I decided together as a couple that we’d prefer to go alone without a posse. Endless text messages were sent to me on how devastated she was that I wouldn’t give her our extra ticket. Over-and-over again I told her that we weren’t going as a group and that I hope she would understand and that if this performance was important to her, she could buy tickets and still attend. She continued to send text messages saying she didn’t understand. I kindly reminded her again that the concert wasn’t sold out and that she could still get tickets elsewhere. I asked her to respect our decision to have a private picnic alone. When she didn’t get her way, she hopped over to Facebook, unfriended me and took it a step further to block me completely. Was I surprised? Not really. It turns out she’s blocked several other people as well.
There’s no rule as to when you should or shouldn’t be friends with someone on Facebook. One can easily take the time to learn the privacy settings and even exclude someone on your friends list from viewing a sensitive post if you choose. The point is, that sometimes we take inventory of our friendships. Even though you may know someone for a long period of time, it doesn’t mean that you automatically grow together decade by decade. While you can’t pick your family members, you can certainly choose your friends. Incidents like these are red flags and having less friends is quite fine.
Why do people unfriend and block people on Facebook? Is it the digital version of being a schoolyard bully? Is it because you get offended by their posts, political rants, or differing opinions? When I first wrote about social media anxiety disorder about those who can’t stop looking and posting on the world’s largest social network, I knew that this obsession could be damaging to real-life relationships.
In both of these unfriending cases, I believe these women were suffering from FOMO, or fear of missing out. The first person was posting photos morning, noon and night in every outfit possible and went on more vacations than anyone I know. The second person was staring at her friends’ facebook pages to find interesting events to go to. In both cases, they used social media to their benefit to broadcast their whereabouts, and to ditch those whose actions didn’t benefit them if they weren’t invited to an event.
Does all of this sound childish to you?
Sometimes we have to take a good long hard look at our friends. Often we can’t help but disappoint each other from time-to-time, but does that mean it’s time to pull the digital plug?
The number of friends or followers on social media just doesn’t matter. It’s the quality of the friendships that endure. Just like I wouldn’t want to break up and get back together over-and-over again with a boyfriend, breaking up on Facebook with a platonic friend is a digital gift in disguise.
Julie Spira is a dating, relationship, and netiquette expert. She’s the author of The Rules of Netiquette: How to Mind Your Digital Manners and The Perils of Cyber-Dating. Follow @NetiquetteRules and @JulieSpira on Twitter.