Wednesday, January 04, 2017

You are no longer friends with this person

Today I discovered that I recently had been defriended recently on Facebook.

I can't help but think what a loss it is for us both. I've known this person for about six years, someone I've always considered worth knowing better if the opportunity should arise. Unfortunately, it hasn't. Following that initial rush in 2011 when our paths first crossed, our social interaction generally has been limited to exchanging pleasantries after church and an uneventful Facebook friendship that apparently ended a few months shy of the six-year mark.

I know people can take it personally when someone defriends them. Some see it as a personal rejection, while others blame themselves for driving the other person away. The element of rejection is undeniable -- defriending someone on social media is an active choice, after all -- but my main reaction to this act is simple curiosity. Why this person, why now?

Was it simple housecleaning? Some people have hundreds, if not thousands, of friends on Facebook, including family, actual friends, neighbors, co-workers, teammates on Mafia Wars, and even former receptionists from the doctor's office. It'd be hard to fault anyone for wanting to cull the herd a little under those circumstances.

On the other hand, my former Facebook friend and I see each other almost every week and there are more than 400 other people who survived the great purge. A housecleaning doesn't seem too likely an explanation, all things considered.

Maybe it's politics. I'm usually content to live and let live, but I have been absolutely forthright in my denunciation of Donald Trump, and that's upset a few people. Maybe that was it. The election was a divisive affair, and while I wouldn't defriend someone myself, I wouldn't hold it against someone else who did.

Could it be religion? I've shared a few things over social media that disappoint me about the church, and from time to time I tweet commentary on the worship service as it unfolds. It's all in good fun, and the pastor takes it in good stride, but I can see how it could bother someone.

It's impossible to say what set the ball rolling without knowing the story, and no one has told me. That's what lends the whole affair an air of the surreal. When an actual friendship ends, there's something you can point to. There was a fight, or an act of betrayal, or there was a completely natural drift over the years as life and geography come into play.

With social media, there's none of that. There's a passive-aggressive decision to click a button, a sense of satisfaction that it's over. Except that its not. If you move in the same social circles, you're going to feel an odd sense of dislocation the next time you run into the person you defriended. Once they realize they've been defriended, that dislocation is going to get downright awkward.

Here's the cut and jib of it for me. I'm cautious about making friends, but when I consider someone a friend, it's solid. Friendship is a sacred bond, something we neither pretend to nor lightly cast aside. I'm a little looser about whom I'll identify as a friend on social media, but I don't add people just for the sake of it. They have to be decent people too, or it won't happen. And when I add someone, I don't remove them.

Why's that? It's simple. For one thing, the snub in defriending someone is undeniable. We may pretend it's not there, but it takes a conscious decision and deliberate act to defriend someone, and there's no way to undo that decision without drawing attention to its being made in the first place. Defriending someone on social media almost certainly is going to create ripples offline as well.

But just as importantly, defriending someone carries a cost for us as well. The differences in perspective and experience that different people bring to the table can cause a lot of friction and weary us, but they also enrich our lives.

Shutting people out of my life because I disagree with them will leave me – and possibly them – poorer for the experience. I'm a Christian, an identity that makes me treasure my Muslim, Jewish and atheist friends all the more.

In the same vein, I'm sorely disappointed in my friends who voted for Donald Trump, and I'm deeply critical of their decision; but that doesn't mean that I hate them or don't want to hear from them. We probably won't change each other's minds, but we can grow in understanding of and appreciation for each other.

There is a depth of perspective and a vitality of life that we get from interacting with people whose lives and viewpoints differ from our own. When we limit our time to people who only share our views, or when we silence voices that differ from our own, we rob ourselves of the chance to hear new ideas and to grow our roots deeper.

Did my former Facebook friend drop me from social media because I was too angry, too liberal or too disrespectful? I'll never know. All I do know is this: We'll see each other in church on Sundays, and we'll continue to be friendly to one another, but our ideas are less likely now to cross than in the past six years.

And we're both a little poorer for it.

Copyright © 2017 by David Learn. Used with permission.

Psst! I totally stole this from Brucker.

1 comment:

Minx McCloud said...

I hope I didn't delete you by mistake. >grin<

Anyway, a "friend" recently dumped me and several other friends. He said he was "housecleaning." He said he was tired of sharing his thoughts with others and being "put down." He was annoyed by people who whined all the time. He also dismissed the whole unfriending affair with a condescending "final message" not to email or pm him to bitch about being dumped. His decision was made for a reason and it was final.

He also made his friends list private so none of us can see who made the cut and who didn't.

I had done none of the things he described, and because I like being liked and I liked being his friend, I could not resist sending him a passionate email telling him how disappointed I was in his decision.

Over the past five years or so, we had confided many things to each other. I knew facts about his family that I thought others did not know (though they probably did) -- facts that to this day, I will not divulge. We dined together on several occasions and he seemed to like me. The only thing we did NOT seem to agree on was his defense of another mutual "friend" who was jealous of my friendship with him (which she made clear to anyone who would listen).

He explained to me that they were "BFFs" and that she was "hard to get to know." I chose not to get to know her at all, because she was mean-spirited, snarky and petty. At one point, all of us were supposed to meet for lunch, and though I told him I would sit far away from her, SHE announced she would not go at all if I were going.

He told me honestly how she felt and I regretfully (and regrettably) bowed out. Shortly after that, I was dumped, presumably with a whole bunch of other people, but I have no way of being sure about that.

Anyway, I got no response whatsoever to my email about being hurt by his rejection of my friendship. Knowing him, I did not expect an answer either.

Being "unfriended" is a horrible experience. It makes some of us question ourselves and the worth of our devotion. You want to blurt out the secrets that should die with your friendship, but you know that would be wrong.

You want to question his other friends; find out if they too were on the reject list, but you stifle the impulse.

You want to let him know you care and are hurt, like I did, but beware: Not only is it usually futile, but you feel cheapened afterward. I never had to beg for friendship before, and now I have done it with someone I liked, but not enough to humble myself in such a demeaning way.

Consequently, I dropped out of his food group, which I have been in since the beginning. It no longer seemed fun and I miss it. I am friends with his mother and I respond to posts on HER FB page, but never directly to him. I have cut him off as neatly as he cut me. Now that I am sane again, there are no regrets.

However, this is what we put up with when we involved ourselves with social media. Sometimes we are unceremoniously dumped when we have no idea what we did wrong.

We learn to deal, and our hearts are once again hardened in a sad and unexpected way.