Spring is in the air and you are in cleaning mode.
You have decided to freshen up your entire work world. You reorganize your workstation. Archive your files. You even turn off your inseparable smart phone for many minutes to disinfect it completely. You keep going and cleanse your earbuds.
You congratulate yourself by buying a plant to beautify your place of productivity. Back home, relaxing in front of your computer, your spring fever rises. Your fingers tingle. Hmmm, how about doing a little online spring cleaning?
Some Facebook friends have been niggling at you for a while with silly comments and not-so-cute cat pics. Others are getting out of hand with constant Donald Trump updates. Miss Perfect never ceases to show you her pretty face and her pretty life. While your colleague on maternity leave is giving you daily baby updates, including baby's first burps...
Enough. Time to clean up my virtual world.
You decide to regain control of what you read on your wall. It's still your Facebook page, is it not? You breathe and let out a big sigh. Crack your fingers and go! Who will be the first to be unfriended?
Wait! Before clicking to say "you are unfriended," stop and simmer. Saying goodbye to online connections could have repercussions for your in-person interactions.
If you choose to put an official end to your friendship, understand that this could be very hurtful.
Even if this is "your" news feed and you have the right to choose who and what appears in it, take a moment to reflect on the repercussions before clicking "unfriend."
Consider the side-effects of this click. There is a difference between unfriending: the service provider that you no longer use, your mother-in-law who serves you Sunday dinner every week and your ex-neighbour whom you have not seen in three years.
Before checking "unfriend" ask yourself these two questions:
1. "If ever this person was to confront me in person, would I be comfortable explaining my disconnection motivation?"
If the answer is "no," that person likely has a place in your virtual network.
2. "If the roles were reversed, would I be hurt by this exclusion?"
If the answer is "yes," you probably consider this person a friend. Your contact may be occasional but you care.
In the doubt of disconnection, it is better to simply scroll away the photos and comments of the one who annoys you. The Facebook algorithm adapts to the frequency of your interactions. If you ignore them, this friend will be less and less visible. Depending on the number of friends you have, his or her posts will soon disappear.
Another option is to let your spring cleaning intentions be known. This trend has been on the rise since Nov. 17, 2010, when Jimmy Kimber initiated National Unfriend Day.
To avoid future discomforts and maybe even relationship trauma, take a step back and establish your friend criteria. Write your own friending policy. Use this guide to "confirm," "not now," "ignore" or "add" accordingly.
What if I want to break up with a real-life friend, Julie?
Oh la la... That can be very challenging and even sad to realize that you, your values and lifestyles have drifted apart.
As in the case of virtual friendships, reduce your interaction frequency. Most people will get the message, adjust and move on. Rare are the ones that will dare to question your lack of interest or motivation to stay connected.
Some choose to write an email, a letter or a text message. Others officialize the break up by giving detailed explanations during one last coffee.
Regardless of the method, if you choose to put an official end to your friendship, understand that this could be very hurtful. Minimize effects by avoiding to point fingers and blame. Explain from your perspective.
"I changed. My pace of life is very different now. My priorities are no longer the same."
Even if you are freeing your friend and his or her time for a better match, think carefully before you act. Friendship is precious and a breakup can leave deeper wounds than those of a romantic relationship.
Moral of this post: think long term before you spring into cleaning friends.
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