If you’re reading this it’s possible until recently we used to be friends on Facebook. But before that, we probably were friends IRL…in real life. We fell out of touch, or maybe we just saw each other rarely.
And then we joined Facebook. We became “friends.” And I had a lot of friends, racing steadily towards 1,000 friends. Wow, I was popular! People liked me! What could I do with all those friends?
What could I do, indeed.
I started hiding people’s updates from my News Feed. Facebook said I could put people into Lists, so I did, and I dissected and debated contacts into this list or that one. I diligently managed permissions and access for people on those lists – this list could see my photos, this one couldn’t. This other list could see my Wall, and this one could not. I removed my comments on others’ updates from my own profile feed, as well as the notice of any new friends I added. I blocked applications. I deleted Like requests. I ignored Pokes. I change my profile picture about 1x year. I was updating about once a week.
And I started thinking, this is a lot of effort I’m investing in not furthering any of these relationships, and making sure they don’t intrude on any other relationships.
After the initial “Add to Friends”, and most of those requests included no personal notes or questions, there was still no communication. Nothing was strengthened. Nothing was reborn. Nothing was created. A few old contacts wrote me to say hi; others asked for favors. But most just stayed silent. Maybe they browsed my profile or my photos, or maybe they weren’t that curious after all.
So why does un-friending someone on Facebook feel like you’re rejecting them?
It’s a bandaid in our relationships. It’s not that I don’t want to be “friends” with you, it’s that Facebook doesn’t define what relationship I have with you. Most likely without Facebook, our relationship will remain the same as it has always been: casual friends, business-related associates, networking acquaintances, old high school friends, occasional chatters, daily Re-Tweeters, or even weekly emailers. Facebook doesn’t fundamentally change that.
But I’m not really worried about unfriending.
I am accessible; I was before Facebook and I am even more after I joined. I have websites. Many websites. All with forms and addresses to contact me. I hand out business cards with an email address. You can Tweet @rosso at me. If you search for Sara Rosso on Google, my sites are about 90% of the first page.
So why am I still on Facebook at all?
First, I have several fan pages for my websites and I do see a utility in keeping them – they’re an additional way for content consumers, if not friends, to stay updated with your very-specific content and to give me feedback.
Secondly, for some of my family members, who live more than 5,000 miles away from me, and for a few of my very close friends, it’s the only way they have decided they will participate in this whole online world. Email didn’t work, a phone call is expensive and different time zones can be challenging, and for now, I’m ok with staying in touch with them this way. But I know where they live, what their phone numbers are, and I’ve probably seen them in the last 12 months.
And for now, this small minority has priority over acquaintances, people I meet networking, and whoever else is online and has many, many, many other ways to stay in contact with me and what I’m doing other than Facebook.
I don’t know if I’ll ever leave Facebook completely. I’ll probably continue to cut down my friend list, encouraging them to interact with me in other ways.
But don’t take it personally if you get unfriended.
Do I want to be friends with you? Sure I do. But it doesn’t have to be on Facebook.