Recently, two people about whom I care very much were “unfriended” by others on Facebook. (I also got the boot from one of them.) All of us were quite upset since we didn’t feel we’d done anything to deserve said deletions. In social media terms, unfriending someone on Facebook is a big deal, especially if you actually block them. Between friends, family, and professional contacts, I am connected to hundreds of people via Facebook and have only unfriended a handful of individuals in the 5-plus years I’ve been using the service. The reasons have been varied – in one case, a fellow I did a show with years ago repeatedly made strident political responses to many of my posts (some of which hadn’t even started out as political discussions) and, when asked to stop, sent me one angry, all-caps PM too many. I’ve nixed a few others for personal nastiness – spreading rumors, back-stabbing, etc. If I’m merely a little upset with someone, however, I’ll just hide some or all of their posts until I’m over it (or keep them hidden if I’m not, but might be someday.) I don’t like cutting people out of my life, even electronically, without good cause.
As such, I don’t understand the periodic “purges” or “cleanups” of Facebook friend lists that some feel are necessary. Folks who are inclined to do these often post about them in advance – “I’m cleaning up my friends list this weekend; some of you will still be on it, some won’t!” “If I haven’t talked to you in over a year, I’m deleting you, but no offense!” Those puzzle me to no end. Should I be horribly upset if I check my friends list on Monday morning and find that your name is no longer on it, even if we’ve never exchanged heated words? If we’re still connected, am I supposed to feel extra-cool? Do you do this offline – say, call relatives you don’t see frequently and tell them you don’t consider them kin any more? If so, wow, I’d hate to be the person who actually does something annoying or hurtful to you.
Perhaps some of these mass unfriendings come after people read articles about how one should use social media. Yes, such things exist, some based on research by psychiatrists and social scientists, others merely concocted by random bloggers. According to these experts, it’s just not okay to have too many Facebook friends, and they – not you – get to decide the appropriate number. My response to that: I’m not in the habit of letting complete strangers make decisions for me, and if someone I know, however tangentially, is willing to delete me based on a third party’s blog post, good riddance. As the old Joan Jett song goes, “Ya got nothin’ to lose, ya don’t lose when ya lose fake friends.”