I think we need a new definition of the word “friend”. Or perhaps we need different levels of “friend.” We use the word so loosely these days that it has no real meaning anymore.
One reason we need different levels of “friend” is when we are talking to one about another. I’ve recommended that one “friend” connect in a business relationship with another actual friend. But I don’t know the “friend” very well – and I don’t want the actual friend to think badly of me if the “friend” acts strangely. I can’t vouch for him. I’ve only met him once. I know people he knows, but I’ve not personally spent much time with him.
I think Facebook has blurred the lines of what “friend” means. There are plenty of people who I think of as friends who I only barely know. I only know about their lives virtually. With some people this is how I get to know them. I’ll meet them somewhere at some gathering and “friend” them. In reality I know nothing about them. My plan is to learn more about them, and them about me, in the safe near-anonymity of the cyber world.
I’m discovering that this causes a whole new set of problems for me because I’m still working on my boundaries.
Sometimes I’ll keep someone as a “friend” who only posts to complain or argue. Maybe I’ll move them to another page that I only look at every few days instead of every few hours. Then they will comment on my page only to complain or argue. Seems like that is all they do. This reminds me of the coworker who starts of every (rare) conversation with me to say “Now, I don’t mean to complain…” and then she complains. I need balance. I really can’t handle someone who only complains. This gets really old. I’m not paid to be a therapist.
Perhaps I’ll keep someone as a “friend” who never posts or never comments or even “likes” anything. Will they even notice that I’ve unfriended them? Plenty of people have a Facebook page and don’t really use it. Plenty of people lurk too. Perhaps I need to understand that they just aren’t that into me. Perhaps I need to not take it personally.
Maybe I keep some people around as “friends” because I think they may be useful some day. I think that I may need to contact her or him, so I’ll not “unfriend” just yet. Maybe I’m thinking of people like craft supplies.
Maybe I need to edit. I do this, but perhaps not as deeply as I should. I try to keep my “friends” list to under 200, when in reality I only really interact with a tenth of that, at most.
I care, sort of. I feel like I should care. They are “friends” after all, right?
Recently I unfriended two women that I thought I should get along with, but don’t. One I met in my old church. I’ve finally come to realize that she is just an unhappy person, and I don’t care to participate in her angry world. Another person was a girlfriend of a friend of mine. She was really interesting for a while. Then she started being threatening to me. Nothing big, and I suspect she thought she was being funny. Jokes aren’t funny if both people aren’t laughing.
Rather than tell them how I felt, I deleted them. If I really cared about the relationship I would have told them how I felt. But I didn’t really care. And that was a turning point. I realized that I didn’t owe them anything. I may never see them again. And I’m OK with that.
Would it be different if I did see them often? Maybe. It gets really awkward when people confront you for unfriending them. I’d think they should get the clue and not ask, or not take it so personally, but that is probably my desire to not be confrontational.
There is nothing saying you have to be friends with anybody, cyber or otherwise. Being a friend should be a choice, not an obligation.
I have to think of Facebook as like my home. Sure, they aren’t physically there. But they are inside my head, which is far more intimate. Why would I let someone rummage around in my home who doesn’t really respect or resonate with me?
So why would I let that person in my head?
For a while I’d keep my really conservative friends because I thought that I might have a positive influence on them. In fact, they ended up having a negative influence on me. I got more bitter and cynical. I felt really tense every time they would post something hateful. So I deleted them.
I’m getting more and more protective of my space. I’m just glad that I realized that my space also refers to the space in my head.