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The Deletability of Frienships

Josh and I had a daytime date yesterday, and we went to see The Social Network.  And I freakin’ bawled.  That’s pretty much my assessment of the movie.

I know, I wasn’t really expecting that reaction either.  I mean, I went into Milk knowing that I would cry myself sick and I, indeed, cried myself sick.  But I thought this was going to be a straightforward he’s-a-mean-billionaire movie.  And it wasn’t.  Well, it was.  And it wasn’t.

I cried for two main reasons.  One, regardless of how accurate the movie portrayed the creation and implementation of Facebook, it did get to the heart of one of my biggest fears about both social situations and/or Facebook, which is the deletability of friendships.

This isn’t unique to the online world — you spend years cultivating a friendship, trust someone with the core of your being, and then one day, they’re simply gone.  Either there is a clear falling out, or there is a drifting apart.  Or sometimes, there is neither.  I don’t think I’m unique in that I have a friendship that simply ended, without explanation.  One that I didn’t want to have end.

The Social Network both highlights the ease one takes sometimes in deleting a friendship — both online or in-person.  I think some people agonize over unfriending someone and breaking a connection on Facebook.  I think other people delete people out of spite.  Someone pisses them off, so they hit delete.  Because it’s easier than trying to understand the other person, work out the hurt feelings.

How many people have used unfriending as a last resort, and how many people use it as a first line defense?

And yes, it’s also true that it speaks to the quality of the friendships if we’re okay letting them go so easily.  Perhaps we’d think more about hitting delete on someone who has been in our life for years and years vs. someone we just met online.  But perhaps that is why I have such trouble with the word “friending” in connection to Facebook.

I have a lot of Facebook anxiety, can you tell?  And it has nothing to do with privacy and everything to do with the unspoken messages we send with a Facebook connection as well as the fact that we’re not all playing on the site with the same rules.  Does that make sense?  I think that’s why I have such trouble with Facebook, with knowing what to post and what to hold back and how to label my relationship with another person.

The second part of the movie that made me cry was the fact that this movie was made at all.  I actually got up in the middle and walked around for a few minutes just because it was making me so anxious to watch it.  Because how craptastic do you think Mark Zuckerberg feels about the portrayal of his life in this movie?

I’m well aware that people justify it in saying that Mark Zuckerberg has proven time and time again that he doesn’t care about people’s privacy.  But at what point do we cross the line in discussing another person?  Are politicians fair game?  Actors and actresses?  What about not discussing their work, but instead discussing their marriage?  What about business owners such as Mark Zuckerberg — should he be fair game?  What about another blogger — does the person need to have a certain following to make it “okay” and then what is the threshold?

Have you ever read something crappy about yourself written online?  How did you feel reading it?  Was it a comment on your own blog?  Was it in someone else’s post?  Did the location of the words make a difference?  Now multiply that by 5.2 million, because that’s about how many people have seen the movie.

And whether or not it’s fiction is beside the point.  So much of what we read is one person’s point-of-view and is hardly a picture of reality.  But the fact is, other people read it and think they have learned something real.  And beyond that, Mark Zuckerberg and his friends and family know it’s out there, and how do you think they feel having his life co-opted for entertainment’s sake?  To spark a discussion?

I felt dirty watching the film.  And I worry that I’m contributing to his discomfort now simply by writing this.  I’m justifying it to myself because I have said nothing about Mark Zuckerberg, since without knowing him, cannot relay information as if it were true facts about who he is as a person.  I don’t know his motivations or whether he tried to screw people along the way.  This post is simply about where we draw the line in discussing another person, and how do we value our friendships.

And truly, I’m only imagining that he’s feeling like shit because I would feel like shit if this movie had been made about me, and because he said it in People magazine*.  And while what you read on blogs may or may not be true, People magazine is gospel.


* Yes, I read People magazine.  Please, do not get me started on that guilt.


1 DeterminedDory { 10.17.10 at 8:11 am }

I understand what you mean about not all playing on the same team or with the same rules. Facebook is used by different people for different reasons and purposes, and the reasons we make connections with others are different, too. In fact, a girl I used to be very, very good friends with but haven’t spoken to since she had two kids and moved to another state unfriended me. I felt very hurt by this action, but wasn’t really sure what it meant. I posted to my status asking people whether they would take it personally, and lots of people wrote back that I shouldn’t at all, because some people will unfriend anybody they don’t talk to regularly any more. But me, I accumulate all kinds of friends – all people I’ve met in real life, however briefly. When there are such different rules for each player on this playing field, it’s easier for people to misunderstand and get hurt. So after I announced my pregnancy, this girl re-friend requested me. Now I’m not sure whether I should accept it, because I’m wondering what about me is different now that she wants to renew that connection. The one thing I know for sure is, it’s a problem I never would have faced ten years ago!!!

2 Rachel { 10.17.10 at 8:34 am }

I was blasted last November by an anti-adoption webzine. I was labeled “narcisistic” and “vomitrocious” and they called into question all sorts of things about my personality and morals. I was called a “baby-stealing adoption vulture” and condemned to burn for eternity in hell.

It hurt. A lot. These are not people that know me in real life. They are AA activists that caught me on a bad day, feeling the pressures of the wait. I don’t take much stock in it, now, but I cried for days. Days. They even questioned that my name was, in fact, Rachel, since Rachel in Bible was barren (all the more reason I think names are VERY important). But it is my real name. Then they linked to my blog and all sorts of other people came over and attacked me with vicious namecalling. It was brutal.

As for Facebook, I “unfriended” anyone that I don’t talk to in real life. I can only maintain (well) so many relationships – I felt like ones from high school or even random ones here and there I’d picked up weren’t necessary. They didn’t need to read about my marriage or see pictures of my son. I figured if you didn’t talk to me in 15 years, you didn’t need to know all about me now. Harsh? Maybe. But those are my personal boundaries.

3 a { 10.17.10 at 9:37 am }

I read that I was deceased in a professional newsletter once. That was…um…surprising. 🙂 As I testify in court for my job, I’ve read some of my transcripts and there have been some misquotes that made me look like I was demeaning another section in the laboratory. And I got flamed for a blog comment once, which was annoying. The worst was that we had a “media day” at work on the same day they decided (for the first time in the 90 year history of our laboratory system) to announce publicly that one of our scientists was under investigation for quality issues. So, my spiel about my section (to which the scientist in question did not belong) was filmed and broadcast on the 10:00 news…and the story was about ***PROBLEMS IN THE CRIME LAB*** Yes, I got to be the face of the problems. On the other hand, my husband said I looked like I was about 25 in the video, so that was good.

As far as FB goes…it seems like everyone takes it way more seriously than I do. For me, it’s a way to cyberstalk people with ease. But then, I only have a few people that I truly consider to be friends. Everyone else is an acquaintance. I don’t take any of my personal issues on FB – I have gotten into political discussions but I don’t think anyone has ever left the discussion offended. I rarely do status updates – in fact, I think my last one was a pocket dial. FB friends, to me, are a combination of people I once knew and people I like. I think there’s maybe one or two people on my friends list that I may have actively disliked at one point, but it was a long time ago. Otherwise, it’s kind of like a comfortable blanket that reminds me that people I knew when I was young haven’t changed much over the years. Of course, if anyone were actively harassing me on FB, I would delete them without consideration. But then, I more or less do that in person too. So that means my stalkerish ex-boyfriend was blocked.

As far as Zuckerberg goes…I feel a little bad for him, because no one wants to be made to look bad. Unfortunately, with success of any kind comes jealousy. That’s one of those life lessons, I think – people will find a reason to hate you regardless, and the better you’re doing, the more people who will hate you.

4 Autism Mom Rising { 10.17.10 at 9:59 am }

I love this blog. I appreciate your empathy and the ethical questions you raise….that that would even occur to you during the move. Amazing.

I struggle with that too on my blog. I am working on a post about my wedding. In such posts you usually include the mishaps. Well, at mine the priest happened to hit on most of the women under 50 including the bride and her mother. At the time it was surreal but 12 years later it is a funny story. Is it okay to tell it if I don’t use his name or post any pictures….to you all it is just some random priest, right. But still, I’m not sure. I’m still thinking on that one.

5 It is what it is { 10.17.10 at 11:04 am }

I struggle more with IRL friendships lost throughout my struggle with IVF than any pseudo “friendship” on Facebook. And, don’t get me wrong, I love FB and am friends with many of my IRL friends as well as many URL friends. But, I view it for what it is, a way to communicate, not establish or develop, friendships.

I do still pick and chose who I friend and whose requests I ignore because I do post some status updates that are personal, but I have never viewed it as a platform to define my friendships by deleting those who have crossed me or who I’m annoyed with and I don’t consider that when someone else deletes me it’s a referendum on our friendship. They just don’t want to be connected through FB any longer and if I care enough to know why, I need to reach out through some other technology.

As for Mark, I suspect that he gets this is a portrayal based loosely on some events that unfolded and that he knows who his real friends are, too.

6 V { 10.17.10 at 11:47 am }

I stay off Facebook for two reasons, my work and if I want to communicate with my friends I do so via telephone, email or even more shockingly we get together. The people from my past I do not want to get into contact with. The friends I have now, I need to nuture those friendships and remember that life is short, and I’d rahter spend real face time with them than poke them on facebook. When you really think about it, there is nothing social about social media.

7 Tara { 10.17.10 at 12:15 pm }

What has always baffled me about Facebook is someone who sends me “Friend Requests” just because we knew each other in highschool…yet they seem to forget the times back then when they mocked me or humiliated me or just ignored me…now you want to be my Facebook Friend? WTF?!?!?!

8 Rebecca { 10.17.10 at 12:27 pm }

I just yesterday found my stepsister talking shit about me, my mum and my stepdad on FB. Ummm yeah. Still not sure what to do.

9 Battynurse { 10.17.10 at 1:51 pm }

I haven’t seen the movie yet but I can understand your perspective. I’ve had people un-friend me on facebook or refuse to friend me (relatives) and I’ve also agonized about unfriending someone else. It’s all a very weird situation. I do agree with those who say that each person has their own perspective or boundaries on facebook and in life. Hard not to take it personal though sometimes.

10 meghan { 10.17.10 at 3:27 pm }

My most recent FB dilemna comes from the creation of all those lists and privacy settings. For some reason, the settings actually make things harder for people. I created a list of people called ‘randoms’ and blocked them from seeing anything. So why don’t I un-friend them? Or more simply, not accept the friend request and then immediately add them to the random list? What’s the point? I’m guessing it all comes back to not hurting people’s feelings, always being the people pleaser, etc.

All good questions you ask, how come there are never easy answers?

11 jodifur { 10.17.10 at 4:16 pm }

I just wrote a post about losing a friendship like the one you linked to. And it is just so hard. I’m kind of glad I’m not on Facebook. I’m not sure I want to find her again.

12 Christina { 10.17.10 at 8:08 pm }

SO true! The crazy part about the deletability of friendships is that I had a “friend” of about 3 years, who I didn’t talk much with for a period of 2 months. (no not b/c of anything negative, just life happening and us losing touch) Well, after trying to get in contact with her twice, and with no success I turned to face book to send her a message only to find out that I HAD BEEN DELEATED! Just like that. Done. Later after much proding I found out that she decided that since we hadn’t talked much or hung out in 2 months it was b/c I must not care about her anymore blah blah blah! Seriously!?!? Three years of invested friendship and just like that delete, for really no good reason!

13 Bleu { 10.17.10 at 8:11 pm }

I had a friend, one of the first and best I made here so far suddenly delete our friendship and to this day I have no earthly idea why. It hurt a lot and really got to me, but not for nearly as long as it would have a few years ago.
I realized intellectually it had nothing to do with me and maybe it was that it had not been more than a year or maybe it was my age but I just didn’t want to ache and agonize over it like I have in the past. It still is sad to me but I have vowed to my children and myself that I will only put my energies in friendships that put energy into the friendship as well.

14 Eve { 10.18.10 at 12:00 am }

Friend break-ups do hurt so badly, don’t they? I still reel from one that happened about 100 years ago when I was in high school. IN FACT, I think a big part of why I’m not on FB at all has to do with that dumping.

Though, not being on FB is good for me. I was on for a VERY short while a few years back. The whole friend request thing freaked me out…then I started getting my teen clients friend requesting me…and then I started getting people from my past who I didn’t really care to remember chumming up to me. And THEN I got jealous of those same past people’s seemingly effortless broods of children.

You have a good heart, Mel.

15 Mali { 10.18.10 at 12:15 am }

I haven’t seen the film, but I’m very careful about who I “friend” on Facebook. So – as far as I know – I haven’t been “defriended” yet. I don’t use Facebook to keep in touch with people I see all the time. Precisely the opposite – it is brilliant for me to keep in touch with friends and family who live out of town or on the other side of the world. And I’m very careful about my status updates. I’m still of the generation that jealously guards its privacy, rather than Mark Z’s generation – who maybe have a different approach?

16 Chris { 10.18.10 at 12:59 am }

I love that you read People magazine!

17 Nelly { 10.18.10 at 2:58 am }

Being falsely accused makes you realize what people say doesn’t actually mean crap to your TRUE friends. Small minded people will believe and that’s harmful and hurtful enough. Living in a small town it’s very, very, hard to hide from gossip and lies. Friend breakups hurt much worse than guy breakups. And I’ve had my share this past year.

18 S.I.F. { 10.18.10 at 3:27 am }

I just had to go back and read your posts about losing a friend, and it hit so close to home I cannot even tell you. I lost a very close friendship, and I still think about her from time to time. It breaks my heart that she isn’t by my side now, where my best friend should be. It kills me that she undoubtedly knows what’s going on (and has heard about my failed cycle and other things through mutual friends) but hasn’t chosen to pick up the phone as she knows I would in a heartbeat if the roles were reversed. I still don’t understand what happened to our friendship, and it still makes me so very very sad.

So yes, I was tearing up reading your posts from way back then.

As far as the here and now, one of the things I first asked about this movie was how it was even legal for someone else to profit off of selling a person’s life story. How it’s right to make a movie about Mark Zucherberg without any input from the man himself. I actually asked if that could happen to any one of us. If someone from our pasts could go and tell their version of events, and suddenly it becomes fact for everyone else in the world.

The idea terrifies me. And as always, you put that fear into far better words than I could….

19 Bea { 10.18.10 at 7:22 am }

See, I think you just hit it on the head, in terms of why I don’t feel comfortable with facebook. I’m always tempted to read things into it… who friends/unfriends… who posts what… who replies… the truth is I end up ignoring it most of the time, unless I get a personal message. And yet I keep getting periodically sucked in to wondering what others mean by things that go on there.

I think I have to try and see that film.


20 loribeth { 10.18.10 at 9:24 am }

Dh & I saw the movie & liked it. I thought it was well done, & (gulp) as someone whose journalism school class was the very first to use computers vs typewriters (very primitive word processing program, complete with a dot matrix continuous form printer that 30 of us shared), it was interesting to get a look at how different (& how similar — beer being a constant, lol) college life is 25+ years later. I particularly liked that so much of the story was ambiguous — you never really know who to believe, Mark, the Winklevoss twins, Eduardo. You’re presented with the different stories & left to make up your own mind.

I understand your point about how it must feel to see yourself portrayed so unsympathetically. (Of course, there aren’t too many characters in the movie who come off very well, are there? with the possible exception of Eduardo.) At the same time, it’s great publicity for Facebook, isn’t it?

I have a fair bit of Facebook anxiety myself. Not so much over who’s going to friend or unfriend me. My list of “friends” is relatively small compared to some people’s, under 100. Most of them are my relatives, dh’s relatives, a few of my best friends from high school & university, friends I’ve made through my pregnancy loss support group, & online friends from both the IF/loss and scrapbooking communities (you included! lol). I find it’s a nice way to stay in touch with them. I’m mildly curious about what some of my high school classmates are up to, but not enough to “friend” them, & so far, I’ve only had one “friend” request from someone where I went “Really?? Are you kidding??” & then ignored it. A number of my real-life friends & relatives, being in their 40s, 50s & up, rarely go online. One of my cousins who is in her late 40s told me she only JUST got her first personal computer… another cousin RSVPd to my parents’ anniversary party & said it was the very first e-mail he’d ever sent (assisted by his 12-year-old son, lol).

But I digress. The big concern for me was & is privacy. Not just in the sense of Facebook selling my information to advertisers who will do Lord-knows-what with it, but the implications of bringing together all these different compartments of my life together in one place. I rarely talk openly about Katie outside my circle of IRL & online loss parent friends — but I have posted status blurbs on her anniversary & on Pregnant & Infant Loss Awareness Day, & I even posted a photo of her niche. Some of the responses I got were a pleasant surprise, but mostly the silence was deafening. :p

I imagine if someone was really curious, they could look at some of my online friends, find a link to their blogs, see a comment there from me & follow it back to my blog. I really would like to keep my blog private. At the same time, I’ve realized that (a) I’m not really THAT interesting & I don’t think too many people I know would have the interest or the tech savvy to do that, & (b) while I wouldn’t like it, really, would it be the end of the world if someone from “real life” did find my blog? Probably not.

I’ve also read some blog posts & realized that these bloggers & I may (or do) have mutual friends — which is really kind of weird, & not something I’m sure how or whether I should reveal. And I keep thinking how awkward that might be, if I friended a blogger on Facebook & then discovered that we had a mutual friend in real life. It might be awkward, it might not be. It all depends on how open you are or want to be with your information, I guess. All online posting is a privacy risk to some degree, & it’s very easy to cross a line you really didn’t want to cross without knowing it at the time.

21 loribeth { 10.18.10 at 9:25 am }

(I just realized I wrote a novel there. Sorry!)

22 marilyn { 10.18.10 at 3:09 pm }

I want to see the movie now than more than ever. You write very honestly. I appreciate that. I have used the deleting a friend on facebook before. I felt really bad afterwards. I have found great friendships on facebook and feel I have friends on there that are very supportive. I also have friends on there that completely ignore me. I have chosen not to delete them because i am still very interested in how they are and want to keep my childhood alive because many of them are my childhood friends.

23 Anne { 10.19.10 at 8:09 am }

I haven’t seen the movie yet but I am really interested to watch if I have time. About Facebook, there are some close relatives that I don’t want to befriend because I don’t want them to know my real situation. I usually post my status there. If I have a problem, Facebook is where I could shout out my problem.

About friends deleting you as friends, I admit it is really hurtful but sometimes I have to ignore it not to feel the pain.

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24 Sharee { 10.23.10 at 11:29 pm }

I started selectively accepting friend requests, but now it’s just open season on my page! I have my pictures blocked and pretty much use the site to share updates about projects I have in the works. I once un-friended someone who had bare chested profile pics up (a woman!) … I also re-friend requested a family member who had un-friended me after a disagreement. Hey, it’s all water under the bridge.

25 My Bumpy Journey { 10.24.10 at 11:19 pm }

Spot on with your description about Facebook. I read a Twitter post the other day “Twitter makes me like people I don’t know even more the way Facebook makes me dislike people that I already know”
Or something like that.
I think part of it is is the sharing. You get on Facebook to share, and to see what other people are doing. The social interaction. We have been overshared and overstimulated. With Twitter you get 140 character (okay, sometimes more with Twitlonger), and a picture here and there. The way it is set up you don’t get a flood of different things.
Make sense?
I have not unfriended anyone, but I have hid a lot of people. I have also restricted my stuff (info, status updates) from others.
I figure if they have a problem they can ask. Chances are they are overloaded with stuff they don’t even notice that i am not on their timeline.

26 Terry Elisabeth { 10.26.10 at 5:06 am }

People on Facebook shouldn’t even be called friends ! It makes the whole thing more personal than it is. On 200 “friends”, how many are really friends anyway ? I don’t hesitate to unfriend colleagues because I don’t want them to know every details of my life and I don’t want to know theirs. I unfriend old high school friends because we weren’t friends in high school anyway and if I knew them in real life, in this actual time, they still wouldn’t be my friends.

I don’t cultivate my fake relationships on Facebook. I use it for email, posting pictures, connecting with family and real friends. I don’t network either. I “like” pages and groups.

I can’t unfriend people that never were my friends to begin with. I just put the “relationships” where they are supposed to be.

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