For the past couple of months, I've been feeling a great deal of shame and embarrassment. Now it's gotten too difficult for me to hold those feelings inside, so I'm going to spill my guts: a woman on Facebook unfriended me.
You've all heard of Facebook and its brothers and sisters -- MySpace, Linkedin, Twitter, etc. Fans of these social networking sites point out that it's a way for more and more people to connect to each other. In this day and age in which people apparently don't have time to leave their many screens and meet actual humans, they can make virtual friends and have a cyber social life. The thing these enthusiasts don't talk about is the possibility of rejection. I know all about it, and it hurts, virtually.
To the few of you who are not on one of these sites, let me explain how this friend thing works on them. The object is much like that which some children have -- to have as many friends as possible. So you search and find people that you know and ask them to be your "friend." It doesn't stop there. You can ask a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend to be your friend. They almost always say, "yes." They're very friendly. So you end up being friends with a John Smith who lives in Guam whom you have never met and whom you can't remember what the connection to you is. Then when your real-life friends look at your list of Facebook friends, they may become friends of John Smith from Guam, too.
To be more accurate, in the vernacular of these sites, you don't "become friends" with someone. You "friend" them. That's right. They use "friend" as a verb. This aspect of virtual grammar is really annoying. However, I guess I shouldn't be so surprised by this linguistic evolution. All kinds of words are used as verbs these days. I think this whole thing started when somebody decided that it was okay to use "parenting" as a verb (as in, "I was up all night, parenting my kids"). That opened the floodgates. Soon, after spending the night on the sofa, people will be saying, "I couched last night." There's no use fighting it. Too many people are languageing it to go back to the way things were.
Anyway, these people friend you, and you friend others, and everybody is supposed to be happy with their new friends. I thought all of my virtual friends were happy with me, until one day a woman wrote me that she no longer wanted anything to do with me, and she was "unfriending" me. Until then, I didn't know you could be unfriended. I didn't even know the word existed. But, alas, it had happened. My relationship with a woman I had never met had come to an unhappy and an ugly ending. That's the way unfriendings are.
It seemed so abrupt, so cruel. There was no, "I like you, but not in the way you like me." There was no, "I'm the one who has the problem, not you." And there was certainly no, "I'm sorry, but I'm tired of just having an amazing physical relationship with you."
What had I done to anger this woman that drove her to unfriend me? I'll tell you what I did: I had asked her -- along with my other friends -- to check out my latest column. She said that she was offended that I used Facebook to promote my writing.
I couldn't believe it. Most people use these sites to promote themselves. They'll talk about a job they have, or one they want, a concert they're giving, or one they want to go to. But she thought I was crossing the line by asking people to check out my latest column.
On Facebook, people will tell you important things like, "I think I'm getting a headache," "I had a great weekend," "I miss Jay Leno," "I spilled salad dressing on my skirt," and "I really hate traffic." But asking her to read my column offended her?!
So I had my virtual heart broken. For a while after that, I didn't friend anyone. I just wasn't ready. But now I'm back in the cyber saddle again, friending people left and right. As for my "Unfriend," I don't know if things will ever be the same with us again. But I do hope at least that someday we'll unenemy each other.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Home Improvement" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover. He can be reached at email@example.com. Check out his website at lloydgarver.com and his podcasts on iTunes.