Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Enigma of Facebook Friendship

Confession #284: It bothers me when someone drops me as a friend on Facebook.

Every once in a while I'll notice I haven't seen any recent updates from someone on my Facebook wall, and when I look up their profile, I'll see that the little magic box that used to say "friends" is now labeled "Add as friend." Then I immediately decide that person is a jerk.

Saying this may seem silly, since Facebook "friendships" are so insignificant that they've almost managed to render the term meaningless. But that is exactly why it bothers me. I have plenty of friends who were a lot more important to me in years past, and I understand when those relationships become thin. But a Facebook connection is about as tenuous and low-maintenance as you can get, and when someone goes out of their way to sever that...well, I struggle to not take it personally. Like most people, I've encountered all sorts of social and professional rejection in my life, but a Facebook rejection seems all the more insulting for how penile it is.

Part of the reason this bothers me is because I maintain my Facebook network for professional reasons as well as social reasons. There are plenty of people I'm "friends" with who I haven't spoken or interacted with in several years. It might be tempting to delete them, but you never know when someone might approach me for a photography job, so I keep that avenue open. Every once in a while someone will contact me out of the blue and tell me that they look at my photography online all the time, even though they never "like" or comment on anything. So I keep the connection. After all, it's not costing me anything. And isn't the whole value of Facebook the very fact that it enables you to connect with people you don't plan to interact with every day?

My guess is that a lot of people do "cleanings" because they don't want low-priority friends to be privy to their personal lives, which makes sense until you ask why people are posting information about their personal lives online in the first place. Do you really trust Facebook or some other social website to keep your information private? Do you think it's wise to go online every thirty seconds and expose intimate details of your personal tragedies that can only backfire in miserable fashion?

I think a lot of other friendship deletions come because someone got tired of someone else posting dumb crap all the time. Just because I'm friends with someone doesn't mean I want my news feed clogged up with their seventeen daily political rants or too-personal gushings about their insignificant other. But I don't have to delete them to solve this problem; all I have to do is click the little link at the upper right of their dumb post and "unsubscribe" from them. Problem solved.

About the only friend deletions I've been able to stomach have been the ones where I dated someone and she or I moved on. If I make a Facebook connection for dating reasons and things don't work out, I'm OK if that person deletes me. But when a guy I've known since the age of five deletes me because we haven't hung out in a few years, that just seems lame.

Several months ago I was at a party talking to a friend when a Facebook "ex" of mine attempted to join our conversation. She didn't know my friend, so she either wanted me to introduce her or she just felt awkward because she didn't know anyone else at the party. Either way, all I could think of during the whole stilted conversation was, "why are you bothering me? You made a conscious decision to cut me off from your virtual network of friends. Beat it, butt-munch!"

I don't know if that says more about me or about how central Facebook and social media has become to our daily interaction. But if I'm not good enough to be your virtual friend, feel free to eat my virtual shorts.