Friday, October 22, 2010

'Unfriended'

Just a few days ago, I noticed that I've stopped seeing status updates from one of my Facebook (FB) 'friends'.  I found this highly unusual considering she's one to post every single minor event her kids go through as well as every single frustration, from minor ones to serious conflicts with friends and relatives.  As I had suspected, she had deleted me from her friends list.  I have been 'unfriended'. 

In a way, I admit that I felt a bit offended.  But don't get me wrong.  It's not because I considered her a friend.  As a matter of fact, I honestly feel we have nothing in common and we really hardly know each other.  We're mere acquaintances.  Besides, it was my fault that I asked to be Facebook friends with her in the first place, thinking (or maybe hoping) that we really could be friends.  Plus, I wanted to be 'nice', 'friendly'.  So, no, we're not friends and there was no emotional investment wasted. 

I felt offended because she beat me to it and it hurt my pride.  Instead of me rejecting her, she rejected me (when in fact, for months I've been consistently annoyed with her status updates and postings).  Maybe I annoyed her too, although thinking that gives me way too much credit.  For all I know, she just wanted to 'simplify' her friends list and wanted to keep it to 'real friends' of hers. I don't know her reasons and will never know.  But I respect her choice.  Truth be told, I've done the same twice before.  One person became too toxic for me, the other said something totally against my own principles and core belief that I saw no need to pretend we were 'friends'.  In both cases, it was not a real friendship.  And again, I would have to admit that sending and accepting the friend request in the beginning was more of a desire to please and be polite.

It's funny how FB, a social networking site, shields us all from the real dynamics of friendship. Typical of any sort of technology that both mimics real life as well as optimizes what is possible and even 'hyperextends' reality, Facebook has truly transformed the concept of 'friendship'.  I am reminded of a point Don Ihde made in his work 'Technology and the Life World', which I encountered while in graduate school.  He argued that in viewing technologies, the irony is that the user desires 'transparency' or the feeling that the experience in employing a certain technology is as natural as real world experience could be, feeling as if the technology is not there, but at the same time demands much optimization of a certain experience (which could actually make the experience seem or feel unnatural).  In my own words, this is what I coined as desiring 'natural artificiality'.  You know the experience is artificial, but you want it to feel as natural as possible.  

We become 'friends' with various people on FB...hundreds or maybe thousands of friends even.  We send out requests and accept friend requests from people who truly matter to us, people we hardly know and also people we vaguely remember from our past.  We read each other's statuses everyday and sometimes comment with a passion.  We 'make friends' given this technology in a way that can never be truly replicated in real life.  But how many of our 'friends' are real-life friends, as opposed to just virtual or FB friends?  Is it not interesting that the term 'Facebook friend' has become part of modern day man's vocabulary? Is it not true that we often find ourselves in conversations making the distinction between our friend (no quotes) and a 'Facebook friend'?  Each of us have different criteria for such a distinction but I will bet that a 'FB friend' is painless to lose compared to losing a friend.  It's much easier to sever ties with the former than with the latter.  With a click of a button, you can remove someone from your life....well, at least your FB life.  A real friend though deserves so much more than that and it takes far more conviction and strength to actually break ties with one.  No screen or keyboard can shield you both from each others' pained facial expression.  No time or spatial gap can delay painful words being spewed or mask tearful eyes.  

Saying goodbye to a real friend means more (and truly means something) than deleting someone from your FB friends list. And sometimes, a real friend is deleted both from real life as well as virtual life.  It's like breaking up with someone twice just because in such instances, once is just not enough...sadly.

Like I said above, I may never know why I got 'unfriended'...(yet another FB term).  Did I annoy her with my posts?  Did she hate how I posted status updates in Filipino at times and thought that was rude?  Did she want to trim down her friends list to real friends and keep her life more private? It could be any or none of those reasons and seriously, it does not matter. She was free to do what she did.  The technology allows us that.  What this technology clearly does not allow is for the 'unfriended' party to know the reasons why.  Only real friends are entitled to that.      


   





12 comments:

  1. Good timing (just saw Social Network at the movies, lol) I like how you identified the difference between Real life friends and virtual friends -- it's so true! Being extremely private, I admit to 'housekeeping' my friends list periodically to keep my online experience relevant and comfortable. At the same time I am also interested in turning some virtual friendships into real ones. In contrast to the one-click Unfriending, it takes time and much tlc --- online chat, lengthy email exchanges, and perhaps, later on... Skype...and face-to-face =)

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  2. I used to take it personally, but now I think that person is doing both of a favor. It's part of my self-esteem makeover...

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  3. I once got unfriended by six people, seriously, in one day presumably because I posted a quote from the movie "Pulp Fiction". It's the only thing I can figure and it's pretty hilariously ridiculous!

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  4. Hey Joy,

    I just read a news article which states that a 21 year from Briton committed suicide after a friend "unfriended" him on Facebook!

    Really, is that how seriously people are taking it! :)I am surprised. It does cause a little worry in me when someone close has unfriended me, especially when I have known them for long. But if someone who I hardly meet anymore or keep in regular touch unfriends me, it doesn't bother. Keeps my timeline clean ;) Am I cold or what?

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  5. I also used to take it personally in the beginning, noticing every single exit because I had few "friends", now I would only feel sorry for "friends" "unfrieding" me for not paying enough attention to them.
    Which reminds me to check my friends list ... Thanks, Joy, for the golden oldie!

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  6. You just very eloquently explained the difference between social media, and socializing. Two different animals. Online friends are fun but can never replace friends IRL, although I must say I have several online friends who have been good friends to me for years. Only space separates us.

    Great article Joy!

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  7. Ooh! This happens to me all the time! Once in a while, I'll notice that my total number of friends has decreased by one or two. At the same time, I've been meaning to purge my friends list lately to get rid of all the people who aren't truly my friends (although I would have wanted to be). I've never ever figured out who those people were though. If I did, I wonder what I'd feel like. =P Loved experiencing the process with you, Joy! =)

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  8. Ah I have been unfriended by 2 people as a sign to me they were 'ending' the friendship. I was offended, as one I had known for years, and I had finally started being honest with her about the way she made me feel. Result - unfriending. The other - a relative of my partner, who unfriended me after a family argument.

    I must admit though that I have unfriended people as sometimes it seems that people connect, but really have nothing to do with each other. I've had this with people I used to work with. I mean, we didn't even really get along back then, or weren't really close. So why hang onto something?

    It's all so very confusing!!! I try not to take it personally these days, unless I know that someone is trying to send me a 'message'.

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  9. What a great and thoughtful piece Joy! I only started to use Facebook when I started my blog and use it more for that purpose. Most of my friends are people I have met blogging so that if I was unfriended it wouldn't mean to much to me. But I think that I would be hurt if someone I had a real relationship used a click to end a friendship, as I have heard happening to some. As for your story I so would have felt the same way you did!! I would have been mad at myself for not unfriending first! Lol! xo

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  10. I think it is natural to feel slighted by a facebook defriending because it feeds into one of our basic human needs. If you were to accept Maslow's hierarchy of needs theory, for example, the need for love and belonging - essentially the need to be LIKED by other human beings - comes right after our basic survival needs are met, including safety.

    So while perhaps a starving person in Somalia (who incongruously has regular access to a computer and facebook account) is less likely to EVER be concerned about a defriending, it is perfectly plausible and even understandable that a person living in a developed nation WOULD be negatively affected (albeit some more severely than others) over a defriending.

    I was defriended a few months ago by, to use one of Joy's terms (which incidentally I LOVE) a "naturally artificial" New Agey type of lady in her mid 50s. I'm pretty sure she deleted me because she is on a "spiritual path of enlightenment" and finds me too negative and "unevolved" spiritually speaking.

    Plus, I alluded to her in a ridiculing manner on one of my blog post, which in retrospect I'm pretty sure she read, although at the time I never thought in a million years she would.

    The post was about hypocrisy and I think I made fun of her (although in an indirect way) enlarged portrait of a prominent Hindu guru that she has displayed in her cluttered living room. I also might have made a derisive comment about Reiki, which is a spiritual healing technique that she practices.

    Now, just to clarify, I have no interest in judging someone based solely on their stated belief system (i.e. unless the belief is rooted in cruelty and involves practices such as child brides or burning crosses). What DOES bother me, however, is when their actions are incompatible with their stated opinions AND they judge OTHER people based on a belief system they themselves only pretend to follow. This woman was like that.

    She loved to pontificate about the best way to live life, yet did not apply to herself what she preached, or at least did so in a superficial way.

    In other words, my intent wasn't to belittle Hindu gurus or Reiki or even her exactly. It is just that I am fascinated in this human propensity to not recognize the same shortcomings in ourselves that we see and gossip about in other people. Had this woman given me a chance to explain then maybe we would still be facebook friends today...however, it's doubtful.

    ...and that's the end of my long-winded "comment".

    In summary, great post! :-)

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  11. Interesting post. True too. I have wondered why I was unfriended at times. I was even unfriended by a real life family friend. But I sort I KNEW why, I don't think she wanted me to SEE her life anymore, it's not like we hung out, she lives in another state..
    I am rather picky about my "friends", explains my small group of 74, as if that's REALLY small.. ;)

    I just can't imagine 1000s of friends.. How does one REALLY keep up with them? 74 is hard! ;)

    Amazing how facebook is apart of our lives so much now too! Gee, what was life like WITHOUT facebook!? :)

    Speaking of reality, I found out a childhood friend died,(she was only 32), through facebook. That was such hard news, as we were friends, but not close, we had great memories together. Facebook is such a weird world..

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  12. I have been unfriended and I don't really care. I think that it would hurt if we had been Friends in real life but we weren't.
    Maybe it's all part of the social-networking game? Great post, Joy!

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