Defriended: The Politics Of Social Networking

Last week my procrastination led me to conduct a classmate search on Facebook in which I noticed that a girl who had been my friend now had an "add as a friend" rectangle next to her face. "Add as a friend?"
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Last week my procrastination led me to conduct a classmate search on Facebook in which I noticed that a girl who had been my friend now had a "add as a friend" rectangle next to her face. "Add as a friend? But we already were..." And then it hit me, this chick had DE-FRIENDED ME! Sure, it happens all the time, but when it hits so close to home, well that's a different story. I mean, who the hell was she to cut-off cyber ties with me when she was the one who not only added me but took our virtual relationship a step further by also sending along a "how have you been" message? Perhaps she was sick of me linking to my awesome Huffington Post articles, or maybe she realized that our "friendship" would never go beyond an annual "Happy Birthday" wall post, or maybe, just maybe she doesn't (gasp!) like me.

I'm sure this isn't the first time someone has visited my page and clicked "remove friend" but it's one of the first times I noticed. For the most part, I try not to take social networking too personally (although it did hurt my feelings that I was not invited to your b-day bash). Hey, I wasn't friends with everyone at my High school when I was in High school, why do I expect to be now? Nonetheless, I couldn't help but wonder why this girl removed me. I almost wished there was one of those little explanation boxes that pops up when you remove a friend sort of like they have when you unsubscribe from a mailing list and it says "we hate to see you go, do you mind telling us why?"

Removing friends happens all the time. It's the easiest, least confrontational way to tell someone you're just not that into them. This new way of telling people how you feel, without saying anything at all has become so important-ish that the New Oxford American Dictionary named "unfriend" its 2009 Word of the Year. Am I the only one who finds this amazingly weird?

Personally I have a strict zero bullshit policy on Facebook; if someone pushes my buttons, I simply push the delete button. For example I recently posted that I'm moving and my room in my soon-to-be old apartment is available if anyone was interested. Apparently this was a faux paux to one idiot who acted like the Facebook police and commented "No, we don't want your apartment. Um this would be more appropriate on Craigslist." Really person I hardly know? Me posting a sweet apartment deal to my network is inappropriate but people posting a play-by-play of their grandmothers death (seriously, someone did this. Please, get off the Internet and go spend these last few moments with your grandma) is totally okay. Rather than comment back to this moron, I just removed him. I use my page to share info about my shows, share news (like about an open apartment) and share an occasional silly thought, not to publicly argue with people I have no vested interest in, I'd rather just delete you.

Status policing is just one of the many reasons to de-friend someone. I asked my Facebook friends to share their de-friending stories with me and these were the top reasons people remove people as "friends":

  • Stream of conscious status's: Many people de-friended someone who updated their status way too often especially if those updates are about mundane things that no one cares about (ie: "I ate a sandwich" followed 30 seconds later with "sandwich was delicious" followed 30 seconds later with "now drinking a soda" and so on and so forth.

  • Self-promoting on other pages: You want to use Facebook to promote yourself? Great! Just do it on your own page. If you post your lame bands stupid homemade music video on my page to help advertise your dumb concert, then expect your 4,000 friend count to go down to 3,999. I'd also like to add to this category those folks who suggest you become their "fan" everyday. Personal I'm a fan of being humble.
  • Political differences: Lots of folks unfriended someone based on political views they shared. Obama, Stupak, Palin, Prop 8, these words have destroyed cyber friendships left and right (literally).
  • Break-ups: To avoid drama, snooping, and the risk of seeing tagged pics of your ex's new lover, most people end their Facebook relationship when they end their romantic relationship. One guy I know deleted a girl after going a few dates with her because he got the vibe that she was a little crazy. The "crazy" girl then sent him this message:
    "It's not like I want to be your friend in real life or on facebook. I suppose it just seems extreme to go to the trouble of actually looking me up just to unfriend me... Really, who does that? For you to care enough to take that time... It makes me think you have some warped idea of who I am. Ugh. You must think I am a crazy person or something.... And I hate knowing someone out there doesn't like me and thinks I'm nuts"... And, I rest my case.
  • Michael Jackson: Either they liked MJ and de-friended people who disrespected him on the day he died or people disliked MJ and deleted people who were too publicly mournful on Facebook. I deleted one guy because within 3 hours of Jackson's death he posted 20 tacky molestation jokes. Come on, just let the guy rest in peace!
  • At first this article was going to be an article about how to deal with being de-friended as if it's something so tragic it deserves coping mechanisms. But the truth is, getting unfriended should only bother you if it's done by one of your genuine friends and in that case I would think you could just call them and say
    "why did you unfriend me?"
    But if you got unfriended by someone you barely know and are upset and confused, perhaps you can look to one of the reasons above. And if you got unfriended by someone you barely know and are you are upset, perhaps you can look to focusing more on making some real, offline friends.