Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Facebook and The Politics of Unfriending

Each morning, I slowly get out of bed, my spine and joints frozen from inflammatory, immune system induced arthritis.  It takes awhile for my joints to loosen up.  I grab my cup of coffee, and sit down to check my email and Facebook account.  Aside from becoming annoyed at the new changes that Mark Zuckerberg has foisted upon me in the form of "upgrades" to my Facebook, I look at my number of friends.  I have about 278 friends.  If this number goes down, I know I have been "defriended."  Facebook at least is polite--it doesn't tell you when you have been exterminated from someone's life--it merely drops the person from your list and you cannot see their postings anymore.

You would think that being defriended wouldn't matter to me.  After all, the folks who have defriended me weren't that close anyway.  Some of them I haven't seen for years.  But nevertheless, I confess, it hurts.  I feel the loss, even though I shouldn't.  I can't help but think "Why, what did I do?"  Was it because of something I said?  Or did they merely not consider me even worthy of being on their list?  Apparently so, otherwise I would still be their friend.  Sometimes, remembering who it was that defriended me can be a challenge in itself.  This can be difficult to remember when you have a few hundred friends.

Defriending someone, according to all the unwritten rules of etiquette, should not be undertaken lightly.  After all, you are basically telling someone you no longer wish to have any contact with them whatsoever.  It's kind of like a divorce, the only difference is it's done in the middle of the night.  You don't even get the courtesy of a Dear John letter.  One day you are friends sharing cell phone photos of your children, the next you are deleted.

I suppose this is the way the modern technological age works.  Pre-Facebook, getting rid of friends took more work.  You had to actively decide to rid yourself of someone.  The computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey murders the crew by turning off their life support pods.  The viewer only sees a monitor showing the life support functions have "malfunctioned", meaning the crew members are now dead.  The killing is silent, no blood spilled, and without emotion--kind of like defriending someone on Facebook.

Aware of the ramifications of a defriend, I have not done it often.  However, I am well aware of situations where family members have defriended each other, and boy does it make for an awkward family reunion.  What is the etiquette when your cyberlife has been wiped out?  Does this mean we don't talk at parties anymore?  And why did you defriend me?

 I suppose I won't be asking you to pass the turkey, after all.

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