Jan 9, 2018

Dear unfriended facebook friends

Dear facebook friends who find yourself unfriended,

I know it's hard, but please don't take it personally. It's not you. It's me. Or, rather, it's this whole social media thing in general.

When I first joined the wild world of social media that was myspace, I enjoyed connecting with new people. I enjoyed being able to write things and have people read them, since I have been a writer since I was a child, narrating my walk to school to myself. I enjoyed the ability to entertain and to be entertained.

When I made the reluctant move to facebook, I still enjoyed all those things. But this new incarnation, with its likes and ads and suggestions and networking, has become less enjoyable for me of late. Sure, it's fun to receive validation for one's posts/photos, but is it necessary? Is it healthy to base our sense of worth on what others think? Is it useful for us to know when our friends are hungry or cranky or drinking a cup of coffee? Is it good to feel guilty if I don't wish you a happy birthday? Is it beneficial for me to be exposed to the ignorance that abounds in the form of strangers' comments on friends' posts?

I know that I can be a hypocrite, but one thing I refuse to do on facebook is hide people's posts. I have organized all my eff-bee friends into groups by how I know you (high school, the bar, my old job, that crazy convention, etc.), and I check those groups daily. I see everything each of you posts, because I have set that parameter on myself. If we are facebook friends, I pay attention to you. It seems only fair. To be 'friends' with someone yet choose to ignore them seems somehow immoral to me.

But this is exhausting. For example, it's cool that you have a stamp collection, but I don't personally collect stamps, so your posts have no meaning for me. And I think it's really great that you love your children, but I don't love your child the way you do. I am not fascinated by your pet, but I'm glad it brings you joy. As I've said, it's not you. It's me. It's not your job to make your facebook page relevant to me. (And I know this works in reverse. Fuck, you probably say to yourself, another book post? Who gives a shit what you're reading? I get it, I do.)

And am I supposed to assume that my facebook friends give me the same consideration I give them? When I see you and you ask me what's up, should I repeat information that I have posted in case you didn't see it? And if you didn't see it, why did I bother posting it? This potential awareness of each other's activities adds an uncomfortable dimension to real-world human interaction.

Although social media would have you believe otherwise (because the more friends you have, the more likes you get, and the more likes you get, the more valuable you are as a human being), I think it is healthy and good to have peripheral relationships in your life, people you know that you have something in common with (drinking and dancing, say, or that previously mentioned convention) that you only see a few times a year, people that are fun to talk to but that probably wouldn't come to your birthday party or your funeral. It's honestly more fun to see you and chat about what you've been up to lately than to see you and say, oh yeah, I saw that on facebook, because there the conversation ends. It's a drag.

Some relationships naturally expire when people move or change jobs or get married or the myriad of other reasons we drift apart. Maintaining those relationships in virtual form is artificial at best and annoying at worst. We no longer share this thing we once shared, and it's okay for us to move on. You were in my life for a certain period of time, and it was fun, but let's not drag it out. Facebook creates an odd sort of stasis and a false sense of connection that I find disconcerting.

To conclude, this is my longwinded break up letter. I hope you understand. Deleting you from my friends list does not necessarily delete you from my life, and it certainly doesn't delete you as a person or have any bearing whatsoever on anything that really matters. I hope your life in the real world (and, hell, in the online world, as well) brings you happiness. And when it brings you sadness and frustration, as it will, I hope you are able to handle it with the help of those close to you.

Ah well, and riot on.