Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Does It Mean to Be Defriended?

The element of sadness and rejection that can come from social networking sites, while it is not life disrupting, is an unfortunate, although I suppose unavoidable side effect of social networking.

I noticed in the last day or two that I hadn't seen any Facebook posts from a friend who used to post almost daily. Was he taking a break? Did he delete his account? There was an easy way to check. We have plenty of mutual friends, so I decided to search for him in my other friends' lists. Sure enough he showed up on their lists. Clearly he had decided he didn't want to be friends with me anymore and there is nothing I can do about that. I suppose if he said anything to me about it, nothing would have changed He would have had to have dealt with my arguments to the contrary that there was no reason why we shouldn't be friends. Obviously he felt there was a reason.

I don't defriend people often. I'm not a friend collector either. I generally accept most friend requests from people I know and occasionally from people I don't know who are connected to me by a reasonable number of degrees of separation. I have grown more selective in the past year or so. If I really had no positive interactions with you in high school and don't really care what you're doing now, and I suspect you just want to look at my photos and see what I'm up to, I am not likely to accept your friend request. (I have also made my photo albums public so I'm not as likely to receive friend requests from curiosity seekers anymore.) I have defriended maybe one or two people since joining Facebook. It's usually people I don't know very well (or even remember knowing) whose posts I don't like, and who never really interact with me in any sort of positive or negative way. I figure there isn't a point.

I disagree with a lot of people on Facebook. That doesn't mean I don't want to be friends with them. I like being friends with people for myriad reasons and I can find common ground and interact with many folks in positive ways despite the differences.

That's how I felt about my friend who defriended me. We were friends in college. We weren't close, but we had many classes and activities together and I was certainly fond enough of him in those days. I was very happy to be back in contact with him on Facebook.

We didn't see eye to eye on many things on Facebook. I generally ignored his posts I didn't like and all seemed peaceful. I also made sure that when he was down and out, that I was supportive and helpful. I know he was going through a lot. I don't know the whole story. I didn't know him well enough to pry. I just tried to let him know I was thinking of him and cared about his well being. Actually, I sometimes felt his posts indicated that he was going off the deep end and I cared enough to be concerned about that (but never said it to him directly).

I remember our last interaction. It was not a positive one. He didn't like a video I posted and took offense at it. I tried to argue that I didn't post it with him in mind. He kept wanting to argue that it was about him (either he didn't really watch it or he saw himself in it whether I saw him in it or not) and I finally just deleted his comments. I do that. When I feel things are just going to get too heated on a blog or posting, I delete all comments and just pretend nothing happened. Clean slate. Start fresh. Maybe he didn't see my deletion of his comments that way?

I started thinking about the number of times I've been defriended in the past. Both times were in my heavy MySpace days. Both were women who friended me first. I suppose they friended me because we were contemporaries with whom we shared some sort of common ground. I did my best to engage them. When they were down I wrote encouraging and helpful comments on their bulletins and blogs. Occasionally if I felt their political posts came from a dishonest place, I tried to say that perhaps it wasn't the nicest thing to post. Most of the time I tried to avoid engaging them in arguments.

I don't know if it was a coincidence or not, but these women, like my friend who recently defriended me on Facebook, were Christian. When I say Christian, I don't mean, "practices, or at least did practice, a Jesus-centered religion." I mean Christians, the type who talk about being saved. On my blogs I certainly say things that indicate I don't share their beliefs. I often post opinions that show strong opposition to their beliefs. I don't say these things to offend them personally, nor do I ever post my beliefs on their blogs and pages. They chose to read my blogs and chose to be offended by them, and then decided they didn't want to be friends with me anymore.

Was I too offensive? Did they feel I can't be swayed to their side, so why bother with me at all? Do they think I'm not a good person so I shouldn't be bothered with? Is the fact that I'm not Christian negate everything else about me that's good? Does the fact that my views may not be in total alignment with my now-ex-friend negate all of the good times we had together in college? I do have Christian (and I do mean Christian) friends who don't feel this way. I have friends who are Republicans and pea lovers and Glee watchers and cat haters. Somehow we all manage to get along.

Oh well. Life goes on. I can't dwell on stuff like this. I am grateful for the true friends who have stuck with me!

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Addendum: I had initially checked to see if he was still a FB member by seeing if he was still friends with one of our mutual friends and he was. I decided to see just how many of our mutual friends he was friends with on FB. The total number was 3.

So I have come to two conclusions. The first was that my assumption that we sort of ran in the same circles and had many mutual friends was erroneous. I assumed too much about our relationship in the first place.

The second is that we did have a lot of mutual friends, but he is defriending them all. I shouldn't take it personally.

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