May 10, 2015

Living Among the Unfriended

It used to be if you didn't want to be friends with someone anymore, if there wasn't a big fight to split you apart, you either confronted them with those words that are so hard to say, or you took the easy way out and just stopped calling and returning their calls.

This is when phones without caller ID were the primary way of communicating with each other.

But now, when are friendships are based more on text messages, emails, Likes and reblogs than actual time spent together face-to-face, it's a little more complicated.

Or is it?

With Facebook, now there's an official way to end a friendship with a certain feeling of finality and closure: you simply "unfriend" them. This of course was a made-up word that entered into the American English lexicon when the Oxford English Dictionary officially acknowledged it and even named it "Word of the Year" in 2009. But the Oxford definition of "unfriend" is incomplete: it limits it to the world of social networking, where you are simply removing the person from your list of friends.

But no, when you unfriend someone on Facebook (and let's be honest, this is only a Facebook thing), it's either because you realize you were never really friends in the first place, or you were once friends but you just don't want to be friends anymore.

I unfriended a guy I met at a mutual friend's party once (and never saw again) because he repeatedly wrote negative comments on my posts and then called me out for publicly drunk-shaming a guy that gave me his number at a bar, saying he was glad he never went out with me. We were not friends.

I unfriended a guy I used to work with because he totally pulled an Eve on me and took a job that was meant for me, in more of an attempt to cover his own ass than to steal the spotlight. After that, he was dead to me.

I unfriended the principals of the company that laid me off last year because I did not need any more people in my life that told me they loved me and then abandoned me.

I unfriended (and blocked!) a guy I went on one date with who became way too attached way too quickly and then lashed out at me when he started to feel rejected by me. We could've been friends, but our mutual baggage just got in the way.

I unfriended (and blocked!) a guy I was friends with who confided in me about his girlfriend since we met, and then proceeded to seduce me and send me multiple shirtless selfies. The last straw was when he was contacting me from his bachelor party begging me to reciprocate with a nudie shot. I declined, and unfriended.

I unfriended another guy who kept making fun of me and trying to make me feel bad on Facebook, as well as one of my best guy friends' ex-girlfriend who hated me and totally sabotaged my friendship with him. We were never friends, after all.

Most recently, I unfriended the bartender who should've protected me from a sexual predator, or comforted me when I felt threatened, or, most importantly, just believed me. It's really sad because I thought we were friends. I wanted to be friends with him. But based on his recent behavior, he is not my friend. A friend would never walk away, or roll their eyes at my tears.

Trust me, I've been unfriended too – most spectacularly by my own sister, and by a couple of former lovers who needed to clean house. Another discovery of being unfriended came as a relief, since I hadn't really been enjoying our "friendship" and was looking for a way to get out of it. It turns out all I had to do was not reply quickly enough to a text message inviting me to a group trip to Disneyland. Friendship erased.

There have been others – a coworker here, an acquaintance there – but I've barely noticed them. I can't imagine I've harassed or made anyone feel bad enough to deserve being unfriended. But I'm sure they had their reasons.

Maybe my standards for friendship are too high. I've forgiven friends for their frailties and misjudgments because I love them unconditionally. If they made a mistake and didn't mean to hurt me, I tell them what they did and we move on. If they go away for a while because they need to take a break from me and then come crawling back weeks, months, years later, I embrace them. I expect the same in return.

But modern day friendships don't always work that way.

And just because you unfriend someone or have been unfriended, that person doesn't cease to exist. You might run into them on the street. They might sit across from you at the bar. They might get invited to the same parties as you. Just because they're removed from your feed doesn't mean they're gone. You may not be friends anymore – officially – but you still have to deal with the persistence of their existence.

Related Posts:
Not My Kind of Friend

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