Facebook Unfriending: The 21st Century Bitchslap

I have written before about the difficulties of navigating friendships during your 20’s, as well as the difficulties of having friends at different places in life.  And while my blog may paint a different picture, as I’ve written before about the loss of friendships, the truth is that I’m fortunate to have many different friends in my life: former co-workers, childhood friends, college friends, blogging friends, faraway friends.  While I don’t have one “best friend” or one “exclusive group” of friends, I feel so blessed by the myriad of people who are in my life.  I’m a lucky girl.

And, as we all know, friendships grow and change and evolve as circumstances change, and over the weekend, I saw the manifestation of that.

A bit of back story: my first year of teaching, H and I worked together.  We were fast friends, and spent a lot of time with other people we taught with.  As friendships grew, I became acutely aware that I was not really “part of the group” and was invited to events occasionally, while the rest of the group spent more time with one another.  Sure, this could be hurtful, as plans were often discussed right under my nose and I heard regularly about things that occurred over the weekends, but because I was dating Andrew, live a considerable distance from school, and had other friendships I was really busy with, I let it go.  H and I still stayed fairly close, and would get together with mutual friends we shared.  I was asked to help plan her work baby shower, and attended the one held outside of work.  When she left to go on maternity leave and didn’t return to work, we still talked occasionally and even had lunch this past summer.

The Almighty Facebook let me know that the group of people I once considered friends were continuing to hang out without me, and while I missed them and made that known, the truth is that I didn’t particularly care.  I am well-aware of the fact that friendships grow, change and manifest differently at times, and that is natural, and positive.  But, over the weekend, I went to post something on H’s Facebook wall, and realized I’d received the ultimate social media insult: I had been unfriended.

I sent H a quick message, inquiring as to whether or not I’d inadvertently offended her, and if there’d been a conflict I wasn’t aware of.  I got a prompt response that no, there was no “conflict” but that “our friendship had been going downhill” and “she didn’t want to be the life raft that held our friendship up, because she wasn’t even sure I wanted to be friends.”

My first reaction?  Laughter.  Honestly!  Who takes the time to UNFRIEND someone?!  There are plenty of people on my Facebook (no, not you!) who I’m not particularly close with.  It makes me sad that as ADULTS, as opposed to sending me a quick message or a phone call saying, “Hey, I feel like we’ve lost touch, could we hang out some time?” I was just written off and deleted without a second thought; however, the friendship clearly wasn’t worth a phone call or email to her AND IT WAS TURNED AROUND ON ME.  It begs the question: if you choose to not invite me to spend time with you, or with our mutual friends, than how am I failing to hold up my end of the friendship!?

Also, not to play the sympathy card, but with my family situation, maintaining friendships with people who show no interest in supporting me during such a tumultuous time isn’t exactly my highest priority.  I haven’t been banging down ANYONE’S door to hang out—most of my close friends have pursued me, knowing all that’s going on.  To be even more frank, I think that using Facebook as some sort of tool is sort of the “coward’s way out.”  In my previous Facebook rant my dear friend remarked in the comments that, “Facebook allows people to behave poorly without any real discomfort to themselves.”  I tend to agree here—as opposed to having an ADULT conversation about the fact that she felt I didn’t want to be friends, and perhaps clarifying and potentially salvaging the little friendship we had left, it was done in a manner that sent a message without speaking.

The bottom line is this: we all have choices about who we hang out with.  Clearly, our friendship had faded semi-naturally.  I don’t see the necessity in cutting someone off from one of the most impersonal methods of keeping in touch.

Internet, weigh-in here.  Am I the lone reed who DOESN’T unfriend?!  Is there some code of conduct I am missing?  Should I do a good un-friending round on my Facebook?  Or, am I right in thinking that most adults simply let the chips fall where they may in real life, and don’t stress so much about drawing the line using social media?


*Paranoia alert: I really do have a ton of friends.  Swearsies.  I just blog like I’m a loser.


Filed under life with titch

31 responses to “Facebook Unfriending: The 21st Century Bitchslap

  1. Mary Jo

    I don’t think I’ve unfriended anyone. Honestly I too would be hurt if someone I know (esp in real life) unfriended me. Seasons change and friends come and go, but to remove me from a list that has no limit, where there is no need to pick and choose? Wow. Total bitch slap. IMO.

  2. I have some “friends” on my Facebook that I briefly knew in high school or college and haven’t talked to since then, and I still don’t pick and choose or spend time deciding who to keep and who to unfriend. And every once in a while, I do hear from people I haven’t talked to in years.

    I’m extra sensitive, so I’d be hurt and rationalize the situation just as you did. It’s ironic because I have a close friend who often does the same thing Granted, she hasn’t unfriended me (yet…), but she’ll hang out with friends and not invite me, and when we go a while without contact, she’ll lay the guilt trip on me and give me a “you’re a bad friend” lecture. All friendships go two ways and require effort on both parts – I didn’t see her beating down my door, just as H wasn’t beating down yours!

  3. Oh. I unfriend with reckless abandon. People from HS I don’t really know, former coworkers I never talk to anymore, folks I used to date and never talk to anymore….buh bye. I don’t care to see their pictures from the party they went to the previews weekend.

  4. ReinventingAmy

    I’ve only unfriended a handful of people, but generally don’t. It’s facebook. Who cares if someone is your “friend” on there, but you rarely talk to them. I know people do it for “privacy” reasons sometimes I guess, but then if you want privacy, maybe you shouldn’t be sharing all that info on there anyways. Idk, I think unfriending is lame. I’ve noticed my friends number go down from time to time and when I finally come across who did it, it kinda hurts esp if it’s someone I do know. So I just keep everyone as friends 🙂

  5. Sam

    I know I’ve said this before, but I tend to unfriend mostly based on political issues. I have many, many, MANY conservative friends and most of the time things are okay, but on mornings like when the President won the Nobel Peace Prize? Oh dear. The one person I did unfriend (who really was just an acquaintance from college) did a three-status rant and called President Obama the Anti-Christ. Buh-bye now! No time for THAT sort of nonsense.

    I really don’t think unfriending is kind. Seriously. Unless there’s a serious problem, it’s just a catty and mean thing to do to someone. And unfortunately, some people are into that.

  6. Honestly, I have done the unfriending sweep now and again, but it’s because I’m too open to accepting people and for some strange reason I attract crazies. It’s almost always been friends of friends, colleagues, or people from my hometown whom I don’t even know that well.

    The problem is, after having access to my Facebook for awhile, some of them have gotten a bit too free with crossing boundaries and obsessed with details of my life and it made me extremely uncomfortable. So, while I felt bad, I have defriended. Now, I will say that I have a few friendships that turned sour and I let them remain as Facebook friends. Unless they start to do something creepy, they can stay. I agree that using it to send a cowardly message is LAME! I just don’t allow the bunny boilers in. 😛

  7. I’d like to see more people adopt “I will not use FB to communicate passive-aggressive messages” as their mantra. I cannot believe the things I’ve seen people post on my wall in response to my status update–things that NO WAY would they have the balls or the lack of class to say in real life. And as a result of some people doing this, I’ve unfriended them. Who has the time? But that’s not your situation.

    I’m sorry that this came out of nowhere for you. I wonder if, after some of the hurt settles, there will be any space for the two of you to talk. My read on this is that SHE really wanted to be friends with you and is hurting and couldn’t accept responsibility for the lack of connection in your friendship. I’m not saying you did something; I’m saying that for some reason this strikes me as one of those situations where someone was too afraid to get vulnerable herself, and you could step into being the bigger person (the more “adult” person, if you will) by holding a space of, “Look, I don’t get why you did that, but if your truth is that you wanted to be friends and thought I was rejecting you by not putting time in, that’s not what was happening. Let me know if you want to talk.”

    Then you’ve done the adult thing, she’s either going to step up or she won’t.

    Okay, this is the part where I realize that you did not ask for advice. Feel free to delete this comment if you’re like, “Ick.”

  8. I hate to say it, but I un-friend people, too. The randoms I friended when I first joined the Book of Faces who, a year in, I have never, ever, ever corresponded with outside of the initial friend request. And the ex’s, of course.

    I love Facebook for keeping me in touch with those who I really do want to keep track of in these busy years. But, still. The system is the devil. Period.

  9. I’ve had a similar experience recently with “unfriending.” I don’t get it. I don’t unfriend anyone… if you were good enough for me to accept your friend request, then why would I delete you as my friend?

  10. ohhayitskk

    i used to be in a facebook group called “i pissed someone off so much that they unfriended me.”

    it was actually my favorite group of all time.

    sometimes i defriend people that i REALLY don’t speak to anymore, but it boggles my mind when people defriend me because they’re pissed at me. is there anything more passive aggressive and weird? methinks not.

  11. I think I’ve unfriended one person, and that was an ex boyfriend who I didn’t want to talk to anymore. (And still dont!) But I’ve never unfriended a person because I thought our relationship was going downhill. Isnt the point of FB that you’re “friends” with all these random people from your past? I mean, if I unfriended every person who I didnt have a relationship with, I would have no friends on there! Haha.

  12. awmb

    I would have to say I’m exactly like lemmonex up there. I, too, am a relentless unfriender. Maybe its because I was a bit more social a year ago and got out of it. I guess I just want a bit of privacy, and hate reading about people’s lives in my feed that I could care less about/I don’t want them seeing mine. I know there are settings to change what comes up, but try doing that to about 400 people. Delete, delete, delete…

  13. Ari

    I’ve only unfriended 2 people – one’s a guy I didn’t know that well, that moved off, and had really obnoxious status updates; and the other is guy that got a little creepy on me (I also blocked him – he was using my status updates to be mean to our mutal friend).

    If anything FaceBook has helped me find and rekindle friendships that have faded with time.

  14. I unfriend all the time, friends of friends who friended me months ago and I’ve never heard from or seen in real life again, old HS “friends”, people whose status updates bug me… I don’t know. Your “friend” doesn’t sound like a big loss, and this whole unfriending sounds like a very passive aggressive slap in the face. I think you’re well shot of her.

  15. Caitlin

    I really relate to this post. I had this friend since 3rd grade, R, and we were best friends all the way up until senior year of high school. We started to grow apart when we went to different colleges and we both didn’t really make the effort to see each other that we could have made. We both did some hurtful things (she ditched me on New Year’s Eve! and I always wanted to bring my boyfriend to hang out with us because I was dumb and in a new relationship). Anyways, a couple months ago after not having talked for like 6 months, it came to be the month of May. My birthday is May 7 and her birthday is May 21. After celebrating these events ever since we were little kids it is pretty ingrained in our heads so there is no excuse. I waited to hear from her…anything, even a facebook message or a post it note with Happy Birthday scribbled on it. Nothing. That is when I decided to unfriend her on facebook. I was so angry that she “forgot” and really upset that my longest and most cherished friendship was finally over I thought that the unfriending act would send a clear message of my outrage. Well, nothing happened. We are still in this funk where we never talk and nothing happens and I wish I could know how she is doing because I still care about her but I can’t see her updates! Bleh. But now you know how your friend might have felt. She might have been thinking that it would send you a message so that you would do something about it instead of her. You know what I mean?

  16. I unfriend as a matter of privacy. If I haven’t heard from the person in over a year, they do not need to be knowing my business. Unfriend away!

  17. I try to hit a middle ground- I don’t become friends with someone on FB unless I really want to stay in touch with them, and I don’t unfriend people unless I really don’t want them in my life anymore or they’re properly not a part of it anymore.

    I’ve been on the receiving end of this though, and when it’s someone who you know who has no reason really to unfriend you other than to make a point I find it completely infuriating. But I also find that it’s usually not worth getting in touch over, if someone wants to make a passive aggressive strike against me so be it- but telling them that I’ve noticed tends to only exacerbate the problem. At least with the people I’ve been dealing with.

  18. Holy cow! That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard! Um…your friend, not you. 🙂 Facebook Passive Aggressiveness — I am so over you! I get a little sensitive in situations like you were discussing — when you have a group of friends and all of a sudden you realize you have been left out — but in the end I find it always works out that the relationships that are worth it, find their way in the end. This “friend” of yours sounds like kind of a douchebag, and you right to recognize you deserve much better! Kudos.

  19. First of all, that is whack.
    Second of all, I have been totally unfriended by someone who I thought was my friend, and it stung.
    Therefore, I agree. Facebook is stupid.
    (But I still kinda really like it sometimes. And people who unfriend to send a message? Suck.)

  20. Andrew

    Just for the record, H is a huge bitch.

  21. That made me LAUGH. Sometimes I think lots of people in our generation missed out on some of the very important lessons of human interaction… Evidently investing in a meaningful conversation has gone the route of sending thank you cards.

  22. You know some of my current issues withe GROWING UP brigade of “friends” on Facebook and yet, I STILL haven’t unfriended them. I have issues I guess.

    Still, the email H sent you kind of made me laugh. Were those metaphors hers?? Hilarious.

  23. I usually go on a mad Facebook Defriending Rampage every few months when I feel that my friend list is getting out of control with randoms I never speak to. I will unfriend for a litany of insignificant reasons and I don’t lend a lot of thought to it. I don’t know why but I have never liked any kind of lists to get out of control – I go nuts if my inbox is too full or my to-do list is too long and I also go nuts if there are too many people all up in my business on Facebook. If you never at least leave the odd comment on my wall then you run the risk of a 21st century bitchslap, courtesy of me.

    On the other hand, I wouldn’t have unfriended you based on the situation you described in this blog post. So I’m of two minds here.

  24. I have unfriended only two people: a cousin and an ex-boyfriend from high school. They are both people I didn’t exactly adore before, but they added me as a friend, and I accepted thinking enough time had passed that things would be cool. Then both of them proceeded to post terrible things like raunchy pictures of college girls making out together, defaced Obama posters (and not the funny kind), homophobic stuff, racial slurs, all kinds of scum of the earth behavior. So, I unfriended them. I doubt they know, and if they do, I doubt they care. I was just tired of seeing their stuff on the main Facebook page, and I don’t have to live life afraid to log onto Facebook, okay?

    Now, that said, I don’t think in H’s place I would have done what she did. I definitely would have tried to get in touch and see what could be done to salvage the friendship, although, and this may be harsh, sorry, but I don’t think she was interested in being friends anymore. And who needs people like that in their life? Not you, not me, not anyone. It stings now, but you’re better off without her. And in a year, hell probably in a few weeks, you will really get a kick out of it, it’s quite laughable.

  25. Melissa

    I have a friend who, on Myspace, would send out a bulletin every once in a while that said something to the effect of, “I’m cleaning out my Myspace. If you have not written me a message or a comment in the last few months, you will be deleted.” Then the next time, all it was– “Myspace spring cleaning. You know the drill.”

  26. Amy

    Love the blog! Especially since it deals with a topic that gets on my nerves– being semi-included in a group. Too bad H didn’t have the nerve to face you on her friendship issue.

    I have only defriended one person– a long time friend of mine who was a bridesmaid at my wedding and who also named her daughter after me. However, I was truly the raft that held up that friendship. All of the effort in that friendship over time came from my end. She flaked on dinners, didn’t call me back, etc. The last straw was when I saw her two years ago and she suggested lunch the next day. I rearranged my plans (which weren’t much in the first place) to make it possible because I was thrilled to have the chance to catch up. She flaked. No call. No e-mail. Nada. Therefore, she was defriended. I was so pissed. Did I call her to explain? No. Otherwise, I have hidden a couple people who are very conservative and respond to everything that Fox News presents. Ick.

  27. I don’t do the Facebook unfriending often. I did do it to my brother’s girlfriend because I was spitting mad at her. Yes, it was immature. I get it. 🙂

    But I don’t unfriend, mainly because I’m shallow and want to look like I have friends. Ha. Guilty.

    I’ve thought about going through my friends’ list and unfriending people I don’t talk to/have no interest in their lives. I have people I just “friended” because I knew them in middle school but don’t ever talk to them.

    But, really, if I did that – I’d be down to 30 friends. That’s a little too depressing for me. 🙂

  28. Yeah, I go on un-friending sprees…but it’s always people (usually from high school) that I wouldn’t ever talk to anyways. I am sure they didn’t even know 😉 Buuut, un-friending someone you haven’t talked to in a few months..that’d be a little weird to do. I just don’t like having 200 “friends” is all.

  29. Jill

    first of all, this nearly made me spit out my wine:

    19 October 2009 at 11:26 am
    Just for the record, H is a huge bitch.

    gotta love andrew…and you, too. 🙂
    the whole facebook friend thing is tricky. i have been un-friended (is this a word?), but have not been a de-friender (again, is this a word?).
    i guess i am just a mega creep and like to stalk people from my past/present too much.
    love you friend…on facebook and in real life.

  30. I think its a little ridiculous to unfriend someone on Facebook. I have around 500 friends on Facebook right now, and of that massive amount, I basically talk to a maximum of *four* of those people on a regular basis. Facebook is not a realistic indicator of a friendship – it’s a way of getting the goods on the lives of other people without having to pretend you’re interested in spending time with them to find out.

    The truth is, if a friendship is going downhill and you’re beginning to develop separate interests, you’d probably forget they were even on your friends list to begin with. To actively seek out someone you don’t even talk to anymore just so you can unfriend them is a passive way of sending a hostile message – one that just screams, “something about you has ticked me off!” Clearly, Miss H has something against you – but I wouldn’t even bother stressing it; someone who goes out of their way to cross social etiquette isn’t worth your time anyways. 🙂

  31. i haven’t done much unfriending yet… but i know that i need to cut down. when i joined i was all about accepting all the friend requests. now? i want a little more privacy. but i do feel a spec weird about doing so and not letting them know. then again, what? an email, “hey, im unfriending you?” i figure, if we havent talked at all through fb thus far, there’s no need for a personal message letting them know. i do think it’s different with close friends, like in your situation. i can see why what happened would irk you.

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