Are You a Victim of the "Cut-Off"?

A few weeks ago, I was watching an old episode of "Friends", where one of the characters was interested in getting rid of a friend whom she met, but whom she wasn't really interested in being or staying friends with. The advice that she got from her fellow galpals -- "just cut her off."

They went on to explain that the art of the "cut-off" was merely to ignore a person -- phone calls, email, chat requests, voicemails, etc. until they left you alone. The intent, they explained, would be to send a message to the person that you were not or no longer interested in communicating with that person, and that by ignoring them, they would "get the message." The ensuing comedy which followed showcased the ridiculousness of totally ignoring a person as a means of getting rid of them. But as the concept stirred through my head, it hit me --

Have I been a victim of being "cut off" myself?.

Think about this for a second.

How many people do you know, who have virtually stopped communicating with you?
Who do you know, that you consider a "friend" but never actually talks to you?
How many of you have friends who rarely or never reply to your voicemails, emails, or chat requests?
How many of you know someone replies to you days or weeks later with "sorry, I've been really busy", then writes you a canned, generic reply like "great to hear from you, have a great day!"

I think you know who someone like this ... I think we all do.

In the realm of social networking (and standard social communication for that matter), we have grown accustomed to assuming that everyone we communicate with is, in fact, some type of "friend." This notion is further supported by the efforts we undertake to acquire our friends; we do friend requests, we look for and perform searches on friends, we run into friends, and even locate friends through other mutual friends. And truthfully, it feels good to call someone a "friend."

But how far does our trust in our own social networks go, in protecting us from being cut-off? Does today's need for maintaining our own social agendas dictate who we consider and call our "friends"? And are our social networks so important to us, that we feel the need to "weed out" the bad (or non-productive) apples from our friend lists?

In business, it is common to have what are known as "associates" -- people we know and trust at a business level, that we consider trustworthy enough that we would work with them and communicate with them regularly. The assumption is that an associate is not a friend, but more of a business partner or coworker. But many times, we find that an associate may also be a friend -- a person with whom we would enjoy communicating with regularly on a personal level, beyond the business environment. Unfortunately, in my case, and in the case of many others, I've made friends with associates, only to be cut-off by them when I no longer filled their agendas or addressed their needs. Not only did I find it insulting, but also immature and non-professional.

What's concerning about the whole "cut-off" phenomenon is that with the onset of technology, the cut-off has become more impersonal, and thus easier and more prevalent. People seem to treat others more like email contacts than like human beings. Friends are no longer considered people whom we trust and care for; they are merely a means to an end, a stepping stone to someone or something better, or a key who can open doors for our own agendas. Its tough to know who to trust nowadays.

So the next time you take a look through your friend list, contact list, or cellphone number list, take a second to ask yourself two questions; "Do I actually consider this person a real friend?", and "Does this person actually consider me one?"

In either case, the answer may surprise you -- you may be just one email, one phone call, or one chat request away, from being cut-off ...