My friend Laurie came to me last week upset after she unfriended someone. Apparently her childhood friend’s husband had political views that were offensive so she unfriended him, thinking that was the way you were supposed to handle it. She had just wanted to NOT SEE his posts anymore and didn’t know how to do that without unfriending. A few days later she received a very nasty letter from her hurt friend who unfriended her in return and wont return her calls.
“I don’t understand why she is upset. It is just Facebook, it is not real.”
I had to break it to her that it is very real. That the internet is not separate from real life. What you say and do on the internet has real impacts on real people and in some cases, even more because people interpret online conversations differently than if they had been talking to someone in person.
For instance, if I say ” Shut up BITCH!” to my friend in person she hears my tone of voice and sees my smirk and knows I am kidding. If I post it on Facebook, people could totally misunderstand and get offended. Then they unfriend you, you get hurt and no one bothered to pick up a phone and talk about it.
Christopher Sibona at the University of Colorado Denver Business School did a study and found that
“…unfriending may be viewed as a form of social exclusion.”
Sadly this is all too common, I hear it all the time.
Fortunately Facebook has all kinds of options to avoid unnecessary Facebook drama.
Breaking down blocking, unfriending
Blocking is for abuse. It is the most extreme action you can take and you have to file an abuse report. If someone is a spammer, trolll, stalker, or abusive and trying to message you or contact you through your friends, this would be a good reason to Block someone.
It is an abuse to BLOCK someone because you don’t like them. It is common for people to do this to be a jerk, and it is immature and abusive. In some cases, too many blocks can get someone banned which can affect someones business, so it is really not nice to do out of spite.
Unfriending is someone you want no contact with anymore. They weren’t abusive but you are terminating your online connection to them. This is symbolic of doing it in real life. I personally feel this should be reserved for people you either don’t plan to every see again or no longer plan to be friends with period. There are too many options now to limit your connection to someone on Facebook, so if you are trying to avoid an awkward situation, or you think that maybe someday you will see that person again, use the Facebook settings to limit your connection rather then unfriending. Now a days it is really unnecessary to unfriend and run the risk of upsetting someone.
Unfriending can be painful. Both to the person being unfriended and the person doing it. That is why I take it so seriously. The 2 times I have unfriended someone I cried through the whole process because it was family and it was relationships that meant something to me. The unfriending was way of saying, I love you but I have done all I can, I am not willing to accept things as they are and I am ending this relationship. That was my closure.
But just know, when you choose to take severe action on Facebook, be prepared for the consequences.
And when in doubt just err on the safe side! You can unfriend someone without unfriending them. This article explains it.
Don’t underestimate the power your words and actions have on your friends and family. Follow the same rules as you do in real life. If you act like jerk on the computer you will get treated like a jerk in real life.