Facebook turns 11 this month. Happy birthday, time suck!
Lately I’ve been having a Facebook issue.
Not a “what the EFF have you done to my timeline, now, Zuckerberg??” issue. More like a “What the EFF is this even all about?” kinda issue.
I’ve never been one to hair-flip off of social media when someone pissed me off. I enjoy social media, and for a while, it even paid the bills. But lately, I’ve been thinking about the relationships we form on Facebook and how that carries over into real life. The beauty of Facebook is significant, I think. Keeping up with friends and family, old and new, in a way that would never be possible 20 years ago. Celebrating our achievements and milestones together. Reaching out when times are bleak. Reconnecting with lost loved ones. Hell, laughing at George Takei. Those are all good and real things.
But then there’s the bad. So much bad, sometimes. Ugliness, drama, annoyances, VAGUEBOOKING. All of that can make us all SWEAR we are DONE with this WASTE OF TIME and we are NEVER logging back on AGAIN. Except, we do. We always do.
The key to surviving Facebook with any sanity, I think, is figuring out when to Unfollow and when to Unfriend. The “Follow/Unfollow” tool may be the greatest advancement Mark Z ever made in 11 years of this time suck, and that includes the free Hamcat stickers.
“Unfollow” is so great because at this point, there are people that you just kinda HAVE to be friends with on Facebook, but JESUS H. CHRIST they get on your last nerve. If you aren’t currently using this tool, let me tell you now who are the right people to unfollow (all of these examples are general and not based on any real person I have unfollowed. But truth be told, I’ve unfollowed a lot of you people. A LOT.):
- Your coworker who is obsessed with missing dogs anywhere on Earth.
- Motivational meme addicts.
- Game players who haven’t figured out how to turn off notifications.
- Your crazy great aunt who posts 3-year-old “Ellen” show videos all day. (“I love Jesus, but I like to drink a little, too.” I KNOW. We’ve SEEN IT.)
- That guy from high school science who remembers you fondly but you kinda don’t really recall.
- Anyone you care about from your past/family that doesn’t use Snopes before posting links.
- Recipe collectors, where all the recipes involve: cream of whatever soup, Jell-O, Velveeta, etc. (That may just be my diet talking.)
- Constant whiners/users of the word “UGH” in every other status.
These are general rules. Basically, unfollowing is when you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you can’t look at another “You Go Girl!”-type message in a pretty font over a sunrise without throwing your phone at something.
Then, there’s unfriending. This one is tough. When is the right time to unfriend someone? It’s a tough call. Because that is an actual ACT, something that the person, and potentially others, will notice eventually. It says “something is over.” But what, exactly? The relationship? Maybe. But sometimes it’s more than that. I know recently, I made the decision to unfriend someone I do care about, not because I didn’t want to be their friend, but because if it wasn’t for Facebook, I wouldn’t know things about this person that I do now. For example, people talk about how horrible Facebook is during elections. Well, I disagree (sort of). I welcome debate and I actually like to read opposing views to both solidify my own, and out of respect for those that feel differently than I do. But if, let’s say, during an election or news event, this friend or family member doesn’t just disagree with you. They talk about your viewpoint in nasty terms. Maybe not TO you, but in their own conversations. Or they don’t police their friends that use nasty or offensive language in regards to real people or issues that mean something to you. That is when you realize that this person that you like in general shares different values than you. If Facebook didn’t exist, you’d probably never know that. Because unless you are sitting down with every person you know and saying “Hey, tell me your thoughts on feminism/inequality/racism,” etc., most relationships are more superficial than that. You see each other at the store or the library, and while you are genuinely happy to see them and hear how they are, you don’t have to find out that they think all Liberals are Communists or all Republicans are racist.
But once I find that out about someone, it’s hard for me to continue on being Facebook friends. Sure, you could hide folks like that, but it’s already out there, you already know. And if you had known it from the beginning, would you have friended them? Maybe, maybe not.
Other reasons to unfriend someone:
- Racism, sexism, bigotry or intolerance. Period
- They are Truthers: 9/11, Sandy Hook, Obama’s birth certificate, etc.
- They only talk in text speak. If I have to decipher what you wrote about some dumb shit, I’m done.
- Anyone you don’t really care about at all who doesn’t use Snopes before posting links. People. USE SNOPES.
- Being an asshole to me or anyone on my page.
- They keep posting those in-grown hair videos. OMG, what spam link did you guys click on and where is your holy water??? STOP.
- The relationship has ended and it pains you to still see their posts.
That last one just happened to me recently. Some friends, very good friends, I thought, had gone radio silent in regards to anything I posted for months. I have kind of a Spidey sense about these kinds of things, so I reached out once only to be told that nope, things were fine! But as weeks turned into months, and my birthday and the holidays were ignored, I knew the sun had set on our friendship. I didn’t know why and I racked my brain. Finally, I realized that every time I saw them on social media, it hurt my heart, because I missed them and felt sad. So rather than beg for their friendship, which clearly they weren’t interested in, I emailed them to let them know that I was unplugging from them, for self-preservation. I expressed my love and support for them, but said I could take a hint. They didn’t seem affected by this, so I licked my wounds and hit “Unfriend.”
And this brings us to the third category. BLOCKED.
These women, upon my news that I was unfriending them because I was in pain, took it one step further and blocked me within 24 hours.
So let’s break down the reasons you would block someone on Facebook.
- You hate them. Literally. With the burning of a thousand suns.
- You don’t ever want to be reminded of their existence again.
- You have been victimized by this person and them popping into your feed causes you trauma.
- You want to make a statement.
I’ve blocked two people in my life on social media, so it’s pretty extreme. But if it keeps you happy and stress-free, by all means take advantage of this function. Just know that it is a statement, and the person on the receiving end may be pretty hurt by it. But if that is your point, party on.
My point in all this is, Facebook is part of our lives now, but we still need some organic basis to our relationships. If you really don’t care what your second cousin who lives in Texas is doing on Saturday afternoon, unfollow them. If it seems weird to know that your coworkers “likes” include Nickelback and Kirk Cameron, don’t add them. If a friendship is fading away, unfriend them. It takes things back old-school in a way, where we didn’t know and didn’t care what people’s dinner looked like 1000 miles away. It lets relationships have their natural ebb and flow. And it keeps you from flying into rage spirals. That’s what Twitter is for.