In the last couple of months, I've twice discovered that I'm no longer friends with someone on Facebook, even though I thought we were still friends in real life.
I'm sure I've been unfriended before, but I hadn't noticed because perhaps I'd hidden that person from my newsfeed, didn't care that much, or just didn't pay that much attention.
But these two were of the rare sort who qualified an actual visit to their profiles to check and see how they were doing and make sure I hadn't missed anything. They were important.
The first occurred a few months ago. It was shocking at first, but I immediately credited it to a mistake. "How did we become disconnected on Facebook?" I texted.
"Long story. Nothing nefarious but I'll explain next time I see you," he replied soon enough thereafter.
Hmph. That was the last text message - or any sort of communication - I received from him for months.
About a month ago, the same thing happened a second time, only this time it was a person I was much closer with. It was also a person who had recently asked me to stay away and stop lingering. At the time, he said "for a while," but upon discovering our digital disconnection, the separation felt more final.
Still, maybe it was a mistake?
"Did you mean to defriend me on Facebook?" I wrote.
"Yeah sorry," he wrote back a bit later. "Nothing personal, as weird as that may sound...but Facebook is out to get me! It's sabotaging my relationship...So I had to do a little 'housecleaning.'"
I gasped. I sobbed. The word itself - "housecleaning" - holds a tearful resonance for me, having been forced to give up prized possessions as a child by my OCD mother who was curiously both a knick-knack hoarder and a compulsive purger (a scenario I have always likened to the scene in The Virgin Suicides when Lux is clutching onto her crate of records that's been forcibly cast out on the curb). I also spent most of my childhood literally cleaning house, locked away from the outside world, dustrag in hand, Windex mist in my eyes, dutifully scrubbing the finish off surfaces that had not been given time to get dirty since their last cleaning.
"Well you must be relieved to finally be fully rid of me. I'm sorry you see me as a piece of dirt."
It never occurred to me that the month I'd spent without him was anything more than a break, giving him a respite from the drama that I'd caused in his relationship, in his own mind.
But now, the permanence of the matter was heartbreaking, shocking, and tragically clear.
"I didn't mean it that way..." he replied, and in a gesture of little consolation, continued, "You weren't the only one to go, but I can see how it may seem callous and unfair to you, and again, I'm sorry."
Those are the last words he's probably ever going to say to me. After nearly two years of friendship, closeness, and something undefinably more, I've been cast out onto the curb.
So now, I find myself even more friendless than I was before, still being new in town, and now losing not only him (who I'd foolishly made into one of my best friends in LA) but additionally all of his friends that I'd tried to appropriate as my own.
So when the first Facebook unfriender got back in touch with me, I agreed to a dinner date.
We sat down at the table, and skipping all small talk catchup, I said, "So tell me what happened on Facebook."
He stammered a bit: "Well, I just had to evaluate some things and focus on what's important, so I just had to--"
"Do a little housecleaning," I interrupted.
"Yeah. A little housecleaning. You weren't the only one..."
"So what happened?" I asked. I couldn't figure out what I was doing there. I couldn't figure out what we were to each other. I couldn't figure out what he was trying to do.
"I just...missed you," he said.
We had a lovely dinner. Afterwards, I dropped him off at the valet stand to retrieve his car, and walked home alone in my high heels, headphones blaring, eyes welling.
To become a fan on Facebook, click here.