My boyfriend lovingly turned to me, kissed me on the forehead, looked deeply into my eyes and said, “My love, I think you have a Maths disorder.”
This made me wonder when it’s OK to defriend someone on Facebook. (It also made me wonder about the term ‘justifiable homicide’, but that’s a story for another day.)
OK so I wasn’t seriously seriously considering defriending my boyfriend (seriously), but it’s a question that needs to be asked. Friend’s exes, people you met once at a wedding, that weird Russian guy (I was naïve and assumed those Facebook requests came from people I knew but had forgotten entirely, and was thus shamed into friending them) – when is it OK to cut the ties that bind you in Eternal Facebook Friendship?
My boyfriend is very good at that. He has a strict real friends = Facebook friends policy and habitually culls those he doesn’t interact with. I, however, am a different kettle of fish and swathe my digital friendships in layers of imagined and real politeness and embarrassment. Narcissistically, I presume that they’ll care that I defriended them when, I’m sure, in fact, they wouldn’t. Random people from parties and weddings that I’ve never seen again (and now roll my eyes at their annoying statuses) – would it matter to them, at all, that we are no longer digital friends when we were never real ones?
Considering how extremely personal our Facebook pages are (much to Mark Zuckerberg’s greedy delight, I’m sure) it really does matter who has access to our photos, titbits of our lives, our contacts and sources. This isn’t the kind of information you’d feel comfortable leaving at a bus station, so why scatter it thoughtlessly over the internet? Facebook has almost become a collection of family members and friends from yonks ago, rather than a real and current representation of your friendship circle.
I suppose that is one of its advantages: allowing you to reconnect with Primary School friends (and then gossip about who married who and who has an unexpected baby now) and to keep touch with family living far away. But it also makes Facebook bulky; almost a museum to relationships rather than an amusement park letting you enjoy them.
And I must ask the macabre question: what about friends and family that have passed away? Defriending a dead friend seems cruel and heartless, regardless of the impracticality of maintaining that online friendship. Their digital page becomes a monument to them, a snapshot of their lives at the moment they crossed over. Can you actually defriend a deceased loved one? I have yet to click that ‘x’.
This leads to my next question: at what point is politeness pointless? I need to pick up the courage to perhaps be unliked, by defriending those that aren’t friends.
Consequently, I’ve developed some personal Mores and Manners of Digital Friendship.
1> Don’t friend request people you’ve met only once. I’ve done it, you’ve done it; it happens. But I’ve learnt that one meeting does not a true Facebook friend make. (This is of course different when flirting and some Facebook stalking is needed – it cuts out at least one awkward date!)
2> If you don’t recognise their names, perhaps a culling is in order.
3> When culling, do NOT passive aggressively change your status to “Culling my friends now, let’s see who makes it through!” Those kinds of threats make me want to defriend you.
4> Check your privacy settings regularly… Mark Zuckerberg is a wanker.
5> Don’t change your Facebook status every five minutes. Join Twitter if you have a desire to digitally blast your every activity.